December 2002 Archives

This holiday message comes from the de facto leader of the nation which dominates the world:

CRAWFORD, Texas/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Bush warned a world partying into the New Year that Iraq had the power to unleash economic chaos if given the chance to mount an attack on the United States.
Can he explain why Iraq would want to do that? The country has not been controlled for forty years by a nincompoop.

Which suggests the next question: Could our own leader look any more stupid? Could we look more stupid?

Just wait and see.

The City still doesn't get it, or at least the police and the Daily News still fail to understand, making the second Union Square box incident this month look like it was as worthy as the first.

Ani Weinstein was arrested yesterday while taping a number of black boxes, labelled "FEAR ART," to the walls of Union Square station. She was booked with essentially the same charges made against Clinton Boisvert December 11 when he was arrested for taping boxes, labelled "FEAR," in the same subway station.

The Daily News headline read, "Another art hoax in Union Sq. subway," called Weinstein a " copycat prankster" and referred to each of the installations as a "stunt," but the news article at least allows that "investigators believe Weinstein acted to show solidarity with the art student [Boisvert]."

Boisvert told us that our fears are not being addressed rationally; Weinstein showed us that some of us still can't understand this, which more than confirms the original message and its imperative, and why it will have to be repeated again.

We've been aware for a long time that ours is not a secular society, and in fact that ours is not a secular government, in spite of the purpose of its founders and the Constitution's intended guarantees of freedom of and from religion, but the current, legitimacy-challenged administration, along with some of its religious allies, goes too far in this as so many other of its impulses for mischief.

The NYTimes has it pretty much together on this subject in a lead editorial this morning. It begins:

President Bush punched a dangerous hole in the wall between church and state earlier this month by signing an executive order that eases the way for religious groups to receive federal funds to run social services programs. The president's unilateral order, which wrongly cut Congress out of the loop, lets faith-based organizations use tax dollars to win converts and gives them a green light to discriminate in employment. It should be struck down by the courts
The editorial includes a timely warning about the danger of governments with confessional associations, even if it describes a somewhat imaginary American history of independent church and state relations.
It is ironic that President Bush is working to tear down the separation of church and state at home, given the battles he is waging abroad. It is clearer today than ever that one of America's greatest strengths is that we are a nation in which people are free to practice any faith or no faith, and the government keeps out of the religious realm.

I thought it would be safe to read the feature article about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates Project for Central Park, even though the NYTimes account was written by the nasty Michael Kimmelman.

I was wrong. Half of the way through the piece in tuesday's edition he managed to find a way to return to the scene of his crime, when he pulled out all of the stops of his office to try to destroy the person, the idea and the art of Clinton Boisvert, the young artist who was recently arrested and jailed overnight, and who now faces up to a year in prison for his art.

"But public art does not consist only of artists leaving black boxes with "Fear" on them in subway stations. There's a fruitful territory between yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater and erecting a statue of a forgotten hero holding a sword."
It's Mr. Kimmelman who is yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater. Boisvert does not threaten us; we are threatened by those who do not understand, pander to, manipulate or use our fears for their own ends, not those who show them and their sponsors for what they are. It is quite a different context, but Roosevelt's words in 1933 would serve us well today.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

The very best of the Christian message, but we must hold it to be more than Christian.

I guess I didn't provoke much of a discussion with my post on the 18th about Clinton Boisvert's art, his jailing and a piece in the NYTimes written by their chief art critic.

The paper did not print my letter of outrage over a totally inappropriate attack on Boisvert, on his inappropriate art, and by implication on all inappropriate art in these times and this place, so now it's safe to post the letter here.

Yes, of course I had an opinion all along. What follows is essentially the text of my letter to the paper, edited for this space and for certain style adjustments, and stretched a bit.

Michael Kimmelman's piece on Clinton Boisvert's "FEAR" art project hoped to lump the artist with criminals or loonies, but succeeded more in betraying Kimmelman's own inadequacies and fears as a critic, both cultural and social.

The Times' chief art critic comes across sounding more like a Soviet apparatchnik frightened by the creativity and the outrage which threatens his comfort and his system than a man who might do something to help us understand this new world of ours.

In addition, he creates and repeats falsehoods in order to marginalize, denigrate and criminalize as one of those "hapless, fledgling art students" a man who managed to help us to understand ourselves, our world and our relationship to it, at a time when few have been so successful. Reactions since the discovery of "FEAR" have clearly shown how much we need some enlightenment.

Boisvert's boxes did not "spread panic," contrary to Kimmelman's hysterical assertion. They were installed in full public view by two young men in the middle of the day in a well-lighted busy subway station of the world's art capital. They were not hidden, not unmarked, not labelled "anthrax" and not labelled "free candy." The artist's and his friend's actual activities failed to alarm the thousands of New Yorkers who passed them by as sufficintly suspicious in nature to report. Only later in the day did a passer-by became interested and concerned enough to point out the boxes to a guard. The rest is now art and political history.

Four days ago I posted a reference to this story on my website and asked artist friends and others to express their opinions of the events, including their opinions of the NYTimes article. My initial puzzlement at finding only two brave comments was replaced by chagrin when I learned from another friend that it would be dangerous for many in the visual arts to cross Mr. Kimmelman, because he was simply too powerful in their world.

I'm admit I'm naive, but I still have to shout: What a terible indictment of the free and creative society we have built, and now think we are defending from the barbarians, that apparently art and even art commentary can be intimidated, and from inside the gates!

I've seen a number of good posts on the issues surrounding Boisvert's project and reaction to it, but one of my favorite comments is Barry's cautionary verbal take, "Especially while living under the Bush regime, I'm alarmed by art critics talking about art being criminal."

If we survive as a republic, it won't be because we ignored the people who want to destroy it. Columbia save the activists!

DENVER, Dec. 14 — The Denver police have gathered information on unsuspecting local activists since the 1950's, secretly storing what they learned on simple index cards in a huge cabinet at police headquarters.

When the cabinet filled up recently, the police thought they had an easy solution. For $45,000, they bought a powerful computer program from a company called Orion Scientific Systems. Information on 3,400 people and groups was transferred to software that stores, searches and categorizes the data.

Then the trouble began.

After the police decided to share the fruits of their surveillance with another local department, someone leaked a printout to an activist for social justice, who made the documents public. The mayor started an investigation. People lined up to obtain their files. Among those the police spied on were nuns, advocates for American Indians and church organizations.

As citizens, we do not have a right to just ignore what's going on.

In the current (December 30) issue of The Nation there is a brilliant piece of writing about a brilliant man writing about a brilliant generation of queers, and you'll feel brilliant if you read it. Richard Kim writes about Douglas Crimp writing about AIDS activists, but unfortunately this particular article is not available online, so I can't link anything here.

Well, they can use your money, and the $2.95 will be money well spent. Better yet, on the basis of Kim's review, you and I should probably both spring for Crimp's book itself.

It is this expansive vision that has guided all of Crimp's work on AIDS, and thus, read end-to-end, Crimp's essays are more than individual polemics: They present a counterhistory of the AIDS epidemic. Throughout, Crimp demonstrates an unflinchingly critical gaze in the face of crisis and a determination to articulate a genuinely humane political vision.
The expected villains are attacked in Crimp's essays, but it seems that the real excitement begins when he discusses the self-righteous and moralistic Andrew Sullivan, Gabriel Rotello and Michelangelo Signorile, as he continues to outline the lessons of the past and an assignment for the future.
The task becomes especially treacherous when one takes on sacred cows like Randy Shilts, Larry Kramer and the NAMES Project AIDS quilt, or the deeply ambivalent contradictions within the art and activist worlds from which Crimp writes.
Oh oh.

Alright, calling especially all artists and arterinas out there! The [black "FEAR" box] story has been bugging me since I first heard that a subway station had been evacuated on account of what was obviously an artist's installation.

What do we think about Clinton Boisvert's art project?

[This link includes a picture of one of the 37 boxes.]

And what do we think about the take of The New York Times chief art critic, published today?

I'm witholding my own thoughts for now, partly because I haven't finished assembling them yet.

Bethlehem will go without Christmas this year.

BETHLEHEM - There'll be no Christmas tree in Manger Square. No festive lights. And no singing.

Palestinian Christians decided yesterday to strip the traditional symbols of joy from the celebration of the birth of Christ in the Holy Land to protest Israel's clampdown on Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem municipality will not put up lights or decorate the tree opposite the Church of the Nativity, said Mayor Hanna Nasser, a Palestinian Christian.

Israel said it is simply fighting terror - and has no choice but to stay put as long as militants living in Bethlehem are planning new murderous acts.

But to begin to understand what it means to live in an occupied city, it helps to hear from the inside. Paola Michael teaches English in Bethlehem. Here she writes about the momentary lifting of a 24-hour three-week long curfew. The Israelis had suddenly announced a lifting of the curfew from 10 am to 4 pm.
The school day was supposed to end at 3:30 p.m., since the curfew was going to be reimposed at 4.

Then, at 1:30, out of the blue, the Israelis changed their minds and announced the curfew again. They had jeeps patrolling the streets and soldiers throwing tear gas and fake noise bombs to scare people to go home.

Imagine the classrooms! Parents running to get their kids and make it home before an Israeli jeep caught them. Teachers running to a bank to get cash to buy food for the next few days for their families.

Except that the bank had run out of cash, so people were trying to find anyone who could give them money. The lines outside the banks were just outrageous.

On top of that, it was pouring, foggy, slippery and cold. It was pure hell.

I myself made it home safely through a back road, but I still only had crackers and water in my fridge to last me another four days until they lift the curfew again.

I had survived yet another day in Bethlehem.


So the Catholic Church was "fiercely lobbying" up to the last minute to defeat the modest, and decades-overdue, extension of the New York State Nondiscrimination Act (to include homosexuals and bisexuals).

It managed to pass yesterday, although minus any protection for the transgendered, and it was signed into law by the governor.

Yesterday's short Daily News article doesn't mention the notorious word, "lifestyle," but it's permanently etched in the minds of religious and conservative bigots, and in fact it's the basis for their rejection of a good portion of humanity. Next time I or anyone else gets a chance to do some serious lobbying against state protection and encouragement of religion, something which actually is a lifestyle, I want to see the kind of consideration and protection that the Church always enjoys.

I had the privilege of watching New York City Councilmember Christine Quinn in action this afternoon.

Well, actually I admit she was only idling, compared to what she can do when warmed up and ready to open the throttle all the way. Today she was just in perfect tune with both her case and the venue. While she still blew away her colleagues and the witnesses before the committees with her intelligence and her focus, the real battle will be engaged in January.

The occasion this afternoon was a City Council joint meeting, in Council Chambers, of the Committees on Economic Development; Transportation; Waterfronts. The subject was, officially, "What the Olympic Games would mean for waterfront development, waterborne transportation, and waterfront habitats in New York City," but until an hour and a half into the session, when Chris began to speak, it was basically a polite reception for a show-and-tell, or dog-and-pony show, by Daniel Doctoroff, a Deputy Mayor in the Giuliani administation and now founder and president of NYC2012, the committee charged with bringing the Olympics to New York City ten years from now.

The merits of a plan to bring the Olympics to New York City were not the subject of discussion today, but I was not made more comfortable with the idea by listening to Doctoroff start out by raving about his first soccer game experience during the recent World Cup games sited within our own borders, and especially when he exclaimed about how fantastic it was to be able to watch the teams "inject national fervor into the sport." Um, I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't believe nationalism is or should be a standard for the sports experience, and it definitely was neither part of the ancient Olympic ideal nor that of those who resurrected it over a hundred years ago. I don't have to even mention the horrors of soccer riots past and present around the world, all of which are the consequence of "national (or regional) fervor" and not of the spirit of the melting pot or of the Doctoroff's organization's description of New York, "The World's Second Home."

Anyway, the Doctoroff group's plan includes covering over extensive railroad yard areas, a massive increase in the area of the Javits Convention Center and a giant new sports stadium, all of which would be located at the top of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood and to the west and south of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, both densely residential. Not incidently, that part of our Olympic bid will require a $2 Billion bond issue from the City of New York. Chris, who represents both districts, is opposed to the construction of a mammoth commercial sports stadium in the midst of a vulnerable residential community which hopes to escape the congestion and the junk which stadium areas attract. She was definitely the first speaker of the day to ask any probing questions of the well-rehearsed visiting Olympics boosters. On this the first of a number of hearing days however she was clearly holding back from a real confrontation with a plan so badly misconceived, if not just cynical.

She pointed out that the plan for what was clearly an invasive stadium in the midst of these neighborhoods was essentially driven by professional sports team interests and she corrected Doctoroff by pointing out that, outside of the rail track yard itself, the area to be affected is definitely a populous community and not a wasteland. She reminded us all that there are in fact already several community-based development plans, that were painstakingly developed over a period of many years, for the areas which would be affected and they do not include a commercial stadium, and finally she reached into her own experience of many years as an advocate in that part of the borough to assert that without a shadow of a doubt the community's public transport problems definitely have never included the lack of a No. 7 subway line extension. Such a major extension constitutes the much balleyhooed key to the Olympic stadium plan, and the only part of the plan which would have to almost immediately if it is to be completed by the 2012 Olympics (which are still not a sure thing for the City).

In the end she asked what was in the plan for the West Side community; could it be reconciled with what that community really needs?

Doctoroff could basically only answer that his proposal sought to "change the neighborhood," an answer which would only sound stupid, if not totally chilling, to those who already were a part of a real neighborhood.

There will be more hearings, and I intend to be there for the real sparks. The next one is scheduled for January 30 (time not yet announced), and anyone is free to speak. This one should be a blast.

I'd rather see it fought on grounds even more essentially moral, but this one will definitely do.

As the Bush administration draws up plans to simplify the tax system, it is also refining arguments for why it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers.

Economists at the Treasury Department are drafting new ways to calculate the distribution of tax burdens among different income classes, which are expected to highlight what administration officials see as a rising tax burden on the rich and a declining burden on the poor.

Anyone out there think it's not time to honor Jefferson's maxim, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants"*? Ok, maybe we can avoid the blood, but only one side has been engaged in a class war up to now.

* Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Stephen Smith, November 13, 1787, in Albert Fried, Ed., The Essential Jefferson (Collier Books, 1963), p. 264.

So reads the excellent headline on Stanley Crouch's excellent column in today's Daily News.

My favorite sentences, here pulled out separately from the whole:

What stands before the Republican Party, however, is something much deeper than the Day-Glo red in Brother Lott's neck.

We have to remember that white Southerners were Democrats because the party of Lincoln had won the Civil War (which Lott has referred to as "the war of Northern aggression").

After Johnson's burst of civil rights legislation, the old-time religion of racism lost its power in Democratic Party circles, and reluctant ex-segregationists began to join up with the Republicans, who made them feel at home.

If the Republicans are not what white racists think they are, they need to raise their elephant bottoms up off the dime and get to work.

Long before his name was even mentioned as a presidential candidate, Bush told me in Texas that if the Republican Party did not expand itself beyond its white base, it would die. Though I doubt it, let us hope he was right.

Die. Yeah, die would be better for all of us.

The Daily News this morning printed my letter responding to a piece by their own editor, Jonathan Capehart, published last week. Capehart had suggested that Tom Duane was destroying the chances for enacting a state act protecting homosexuals because Duane wanted to include in the statute a category of people understood by very few others.

Just protections

Manhattan: In his Dec. 11 Opinion column, Jonathan Capehart wrote that he doesn't understand why State Sen. Tom Duane is insisting upon the inclusion of the transgendered among those to be protected by the proposed state Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. Could the answer be that Duane knows and understands who needs the protection most, and that is* not newspaper columnists and state senators?

James Arthur Wagner

*small syntax quibble: the last line above read "they are" but the News printed "is"

The letter has been edited down, and the published portion does not include these additional questions:

Could it also be that he understands that he serves an entire community, and that he believes that such service demands courage and not merely professional calculation? Unless he realy believes the stuff he writes, Mr. Capehart should be asking himself about courage and calculation. Would Mr. Capehart have suggested to Martin Luther King, Jr., forty years ago that the stuggle for civil rights could collapse if King did not limit his initial objective to securing protections for those blacks who were most white?
More exciting than the appearance of this letter is the fact that the paper decided to print a second letter on the very same subject today, this one also berating their conservative columnist.
Rights for all

Manhattan: State Sen. Tom Duane is right in trying to kill the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. The transgendered population should not be excluded from having the same protections under the law as other citizens. Transgendered might be a difficult concept for some to understand. That ignorance should not be justification for this discriminatory bill to pass.

Sean Labbe



If Pennsylvania has done it, New York should do no less.

A remarkable thing has happened in Pennsylvania.

The state legislature passed an amendment to the hate-crimes law that made Pennsylvania only the fifth state in the union to protect not only gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, but also those who are transgendered.

In a state renowned for its heartland conservatism, many people were stunned that the controversial bill, signed early this month by Gov. Schweiker, could triumph.

New York State, we need to be reminded, still has no law whatsoever protecting even lesbians and gays.

this spunky little site makes a fine statement.

Maybe it looks a little chauvinistic, but if it helps to direct a boastful nation to its ideals, I can take the bunting and the suggestion of former virtue.

Following the unsuccesful American-backed military coup in Venezuela last April, when asked whether the Bush administration now recognizes Mr. Chávez as the nation's legitimate president, one White House official replied, "He was democratically elected," then added, "Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however."

Yes, here in the U.S. we understand exactly what he meant, and this week Washington is saying it again. The Bush gang wants a change in the regime in Caracas as soon as possible, and is saying so publicly.

But are they out of their minds? Considering the motives and mindset in question, I shouldn't bother asking. But what about everybody else: Venezuelans, South Americans, Americans not part of the U.S. ruling oligarchy, the rest of the world? Nicholas Kristof, writing from Caracas, thinks they're all "playing with fire."

The international community is playing a very dangerous game here in Venezuela, along with self-described democrats who are calling for military intervention. To consider what could go wrong, just look next door at Colombia, torn apart by civil war for half a century.


A Venezuelan journalist I met, Francisco Toro, is strongly against Mr. Chávez but also worries about the consequences of his removal. "In Colombia in 1948, the oligarchs assassinated [the populist leader Jorge] Gaitán," Mr. Toro said, "because he represented a particular problem that they wanted to solve. They never dreamed that 54 years later, Colombia would still be in civil war. You know how something like this starts, but you don't know how it ends."

Those who know me have seen the blue button I have been wearing for the past two months, and some already know what it means.

If you are still curious, or if anyone else reading this might be curious, please go to the Blue Button Project site, for the source, in art and conscience, of this emblem of resistance.

I always have extra buttons for those who will wear them.

The Guardian's series on AIDS has produced an excellent report on a great man.

The man is dying of AIDS, but he refuses to take the drugs that would keep him alive, until South Africa's government makes them freely available to the poor.

Zackie Achmat is not hungry, but tucks into the chocolate cake just the same. South African Achmat is HIV positive, yet refuses to take the antiretroviral drugs that could prolong his life. But he does boost his immune system with protein - with chocolate cake.

Achmat is not a shanty dweller unable to afford the drugs; he is not a so-called "Aids dissident" who believes the drugs are poison; he is not mad, and he is not suicidal. Zackie Achmat, according to Nelson Mandela, is a national hero: an ordinary man whose extraordinary resolve could help save thousands of African lives, at the cost of his own.

At a reception in Johannesburg last week, South Africa's former president turned to Achmat and asked him, with cameras rolling, to take the antiretrovirals. "Give me, as an old man, your promise that you will now take your medicine." Not for the first time, the national hero, dressed as ever in T-shirt and jeans, said no.

A few days later, in a suburban Johannesburg garden, between mouthfuls of cake, he explains why. "It is a personal issue of conscience. I have become middle class but my brothers are working class, and if they were infected they could not afford the medicines."


For a closer and very personal look at AIDS and those living with AIDS, AIDS activism, South Africa, how the world works, and Zackie Achmat, head for the Gramercy Theatre tomorrow, saturday, for a 5:15 showing of Greg Bordowitz's unforgetable film, "Habit."

Lott stays, for now, sorta hanging out there in the breeze for all to enjoy, neck in a noose; Kissinger drops out, deciding he can't take the heat just yet, will wait for the fires of hell; and Cardinal Outlaw is down for the count after fleeing to his earthly holy father.

It's been a great day, but there's mountains of work left out there. The real Mr. Bigs are still standing, everywhere.

Because of an experience of my own, Pinter's introductory analogy reads as particularly genuine, but the main text of this address should read as genuine to all.

By Earlier this year, I had a major operation for cancer. The operation and its after effects were something of a nightmare. I felt I was a man unable to swim bobbing about under water in a deep dark endless ocean. But I did not drown and I am very glad to be alive.

However, I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world.

Can we all agree on one thing? If there realy were a god, he wouldn't be working with a Cardinal Law.

Law's outrageous assaults upon those who trusted him, and those who never would, did not begin or end with the messy issue of sexual abuse currently in headlines around the world.

He represented, with an energy and enthusiasm uncommon even among his colleagues, the Roman Catholic Church's disastrous, authoritarian and evangelical global policies on AIDS, abortion, same-sex marriages, women's health care, public education and public health policy.

Preaching from Church pulpits soon afer his appointment in Boston, he told Catholics to vote against the Democratic White House candidates in 1984, Walter Mondale-Geraldine Ferraro, because of Mrs Ferraro's support for abortion, and he never relented in his political partisanship, if it could mean advancing the narrow obsesssive agenda and the economic, social and political power of the Catholic fanaticism he and his office embodied so well.

Good riddance, but Law's lone departure is not likely to change a thing, for while the people of the Boston area are being delivered of one miserable wretch, the damage remains, and the mischief continues there and throughout this nation and across the planet, nasty stuff worthy neither of gods nor men.

Awwww. That's so sweet. It's nice to know that Christian tourists may not be too discomfited by the repeated brutal Israeli invasions of Palestinian Bethlehem during this joyful Christmas season. Resident Palestinian muslims however, including especially the elected Palestinian leader, need not apply.

VATICAN CITY - Israel's president promised the pope during a meeting yesterday that the army will redeploy outside the pilgrim city of Bethlehem during Christmas if there are no warnings of terrorist attacks, the Israeli Embassy said.

It seems that even our beloved Santa Claus has been dragged into the growing world resistance to American commercial and political hegemony.


Yea indeed for Austria, where there is a campaign to throw out the fat old elf. The impulse is not really so much about putting Christ back into Christmas as it is about saving local culture and tradition, especially since only one in five people in traditionally most "Catholic Austria" attends church on sundays.

Members of the group said the Santa Claus phenomenon had exploded in the last three years. They attribute it to globalization, which brings Christmas television shows and movies to Austria, as well as to worldwide holiday marketing campaigns by American corporations.

The same trends turned Halloween, once observed here only as a day to remember the dead, into a major commercial holiday.

"Santa Claus has been used by commercial interests to generate consumption at Christmas," said Philipp Tengg, a former seminarian, who started the Pro-Christkind Association and is its chief spokesman.

Mr. Tengg noted that the modern likeness of Santa is a creation of the Coca-Cola Company, which uses the figure, conveniently dressed in Coke's red-and-white corporate colors, to sell its product in winter. Santa, it seems, is viewed here as another example of the corrosive global reach of American multinationals.

Yeah, if the campaign is succesful, this would be the guy's second sentence of exile.
The cult of St. Nicholas ebbed in Protestant parts of Europe [JAW--and even in the areas which remained Roman Catholic] after the Reformation, with the exception of Holland, which reconfigured him as kindly Sinterklass. The Dutch brought him to the New World, where the English-speaking population adopted him as Santa Claus.

I say, Please, please, please don't get rid of Trent Lott!

After Bush himself, Lott is the most spectacular evidence we have for the stupidity, disconnectedness and pure malevolence that has descended upon Washington.

For those who might worry about his continued presence as the second-highest ranking of the elected and almost-elected officials in the land, I can't imagine how Lott can create any more mischief than his Republican colleagues would eagerly without his coaching, so keeping him visible could actually do less harm than good.

Jonathan Capehart may only be pretty, dumb and clueless, but his popularity with the media as a safe right-wing gay spokesperson, exceeded only by another establishment lacky, Andrew Sullivan, is more than just an embarassment to thinking and caring queers everywhere; it's a very real threat to our survival, especially the survival of those who are most vulnerable.

In a column appearing today in the NY Daily News, he tells us that Tom Duane is "potentially standing in the way of gay rights." Capehart simply cannot understand why Duane, a privileged young urban professional like himself, someone who is already protected where he lives by New York City's human rights law, would be so interested in protecting people supposedly very unlike himself, the transgendered, by insisting that they be included in New York State's own incredibly-long-overdue Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA).

And let's be honest: Transgender issues are difficult for most people to understand. Even in Albany - where they have no problem passing complex budget bills with only a few minutes' review - the notion of extending protection to men and women who feel they were born the wrong gender would be hard to grasp.
Could the answer be that the honorable Mr. Duane can actually see, and smell, beyond his nose, that he knows and understands the people who most need the protection which would be provided by SONDA, and that they are not newspaper columnists and state senators? Could it also be that he understands that he serves an entire community, and that he believes that such service demands courage and not merely professional calculation? Unless he realy believes the stuff he writes, Mr. Capehart should be asking himself about courage and calculation.

Employing the wisdom he reveals in his columns some forty years later, would Mr. Capehart have suggested to Martin Luther King, Jr., in the sixties that the stuggle for civil rights could collapse if King did not limit his initial objective to securing protections for those blacks who were most white?

The UN is dead!

The organization operates as an arm of our de facto executive in Washington or not at all, and this week it physically, if not formally, handed over its responsibilities to the White House when it gave its occupants the only copy of Iraq's response to the Security Council declaration. Huh? The world will never see that full text again, especially since much of what it contains is obviously such an embarassment, and not just to the U.S.

The League of Nations was done in by the fascists in the twenties and thirties, its successor by American corporate imperialists in the aughts. I'm actually surprised we took so long.

Long live the EU!

Is it impossible to imagine replacing the concept of a League of, or a United, Nations with a world society formed voluntarily by emulation of, if not a real lust for physical intimacy with, the mature, very attractive and successful culture, polity and economy represented by the European Union? I can imagine that, as an alternative to the U.S. alone, we might eventually see the concept of "Europe" erase its association with geography and history and become a model, if not a magnet, for diverse peoples around the world. It's not perfect, but the European federal approach currently has no real competition in a world which resists American imperialism.

As a nation, if not as a society, the U.S. doesn't seem to be able to anything very well just now (except weaponry and the commercial marketing of popular culture), and this isn't hard to see if you take a serious look around. We're living off capital at the moment. But regardless of how good or bad we may think we look to ourselves, we just don't look that good any more to people on the outside, and we're looking worse every day. Most alarming is the fact that even Americans who see this clearly, just don't give a damn, or they are convinced that nothing can change it. I think the world sees this.

Damn! It should have worked. We had it all, and it looks like we really fucked it up. It's all very sad.

We really try to ignore the more commercial propiquus/ubiquitous/iniquitous holidays (which will remain nameless) ourselves, in favor of the solstice, but sometimes you just want to give, er, a gift. How about real art, I mean real art? The gift that keeps on giving, especially if it's work by artists still very much living.

Throwing out a few suggestions for New York City sources where you cannot go wrong, in a few cases regardless of the size of your purse, and where even the very informed, helpful and always beautiful shopgirls and shopboys are as deserving as all the other parties involved in your transaction:

1.) Plus Ultra, a very cool, small Gallery in Williamsburg, will be throwing a timely "fundraising holiday party" December 19, 2002 from 7-9 pm at a loft in Manhattan. Each patron with $150 will go home with a great piece of tomorrow's cultural heritage today. Email me for more information.

2.) Printed Matter, a nonprofit in Chelsea, is a great source for gifts of "publications made by artists in a book-like format" in all price ranges. Great browsing.

3.) Pierogi 2000 a legendary nonprofit space in Williamsburg, just two short blocks from the first "L" stop outside Manhattan, has an enormous stash of important work in their famous flat files, where you are free to browse at your own pace, at prices even other starving artists can support, and do.

4.) LFL Gallery in Chelsea, at their new location on 24th Street, has their own flat file treasure, and the very charming Zach will welcome your curiosity.

5.) K48-3, "The Teen Issue," a fantastic new glossy zine and CD, Scott Hug's collaboration with other artists, writers and musicians, is available at fine stores in the area, including St. Mark's Book Store, Other Music, Mondo Kim's, Dia Center for the Arts, Printed Matter, alife, New Museum, MOMA Design Store, See Hear and Isa. Be, you and your loved ones, the very first on your blocks to own one.

6.) Mixed Greens, a lively gallery in Chelsea and art website throughout the galaxy, is also being "holiday-ish" this month, with a sale where you can easily take home beautiful light-weight packages that are not "light weight!" Explore the website.

This little list is neither exhaustive nor is it necessarily presriptive, but I am confident that it will bring pleasure to anyone who checks it out. I admit it's posted as a quick thought, and as an attempt to at least partly substitute for the genuine cheer I miss in working hard to avoid the forced cheer of this season.

Maybe I'll just go out into the woods now and bring some greens back into our little cottage, to celebrate the coming rebirth of the sun.

We'll be waiting for at least a few more years, and maybe we'll wait forever, but at least some of us know what we are waiting for.

The New York Philharmonic was 160 years old on Saturday, with more history than any other American orchestra and most European ones as well. Played before an A-list audience at Avery Fisher Hall, the anniversary program was a collection of music with the savory smell of comfort food: no initiatives, not much to tweak the imagination, instead an earnest recapitulation of the long-ago discovered and the well remembered.
This City deserves so much more. Inspired leadership could ignite this magnificent institution and those whom it has failed so miserably through the extraordinary banality and elitism of the programs and the direction it has pursued for years. NYTimes Reviewer Bernard Holland joins virtually every music critic in New York with his barely polite references to the new music director, Lorin Maazel (beginning a four-year contract with the orchestra) in an account which summarizes the current state of a Philharmonic pleased to be held in comfortable captivity by its handlers.
The New York Philharmonic is like an island that sits off the coast of the city's musical life. One looks back to Mr. Boulez's regime in the 1970's to find any real relevance, any true plan or purpose for this magnificent orchestra other than self-containment and survival. It is by nature a great shiny machine, although stubborn conductorial minds can force it to rise above itself. And deep within its collective psyche, I think, a shiny machine is what the Philharmonic wants to be. Mr. Maazel is like a mirror. This orchestra, its board, its administration and faithful subscribers look into it and see themselves. They find it a pleasing image.

(the American radicals, that is)

History says, Don't hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up

And hope and history rhyme.

--Seamus Heaney

A son of the Weathermen, son of four of them, as it turned out, has been named as one of 32 American winners of this year's Rhodes scholarships.

He is now 22, and since his birth parents have been in prison since he was fourteen months old, he was raised by two other weathermen leaders [one of whom had a memoir published, fatefully, on September 11, 2001].

As with the other triumphs of his young life, Chesa Boudin was unable to celebrate with his parents on Saturday afternoon when he was named a Rhodes scholar. He could not even share the good news.

As maximum-security inmates in the New York State prison system, Katherine Boudin and David Gilbert are barred from receiving telephone calls or e-mail messages. Though Mr. Boudin has rigged his dorm room at Yale University to override the block on collect calls, neither parent was able to connect with him today. They will read of their son's accomplishment in the newspaper, instead, and it may be days before they can congratulate him.

While he has spoken widely and intelligently about all four of his parents' experiences, Chesa Boudin prefers to talk about his own world right now.
"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now — now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism," Mr. Boudin said. "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."

"I don't know that much about my parents' tactics; I'll talk about my tactics," he added. "The historical moment we find ourselves in determines what is most appropriate for social change."

Incidently, does anyone else reading this NYTimes account find the terms of Boudin's birth-parents incarceration, restricting communication with their only child, worthy of a culture which pretends to worship family values and which denies it has political prisoners?

Barry and I will be scampering about the galleries in Chelsea tomorrow, but only after a hop down to Tribeca and the Apex Gallery, where the artist Nancy Hwang will be offering gift-wrapping services to Apex visitors, who can in turn offer their finger to help hold a bow as they talk with Hwang while their presents are prepared. As in her other projects, Hwang’s services are offered as a courtesy.

We have no boxes for Nancy, both of us being Xmas resistors, so we will only be voyeurs this time.

Click onto "current show" near the top of this page, and look for December 7.

A great heart and a great mind is gone.

BALTIMORE - December 6 - Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan's brother and co-felon, Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.

During his nearly 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent, sustainable world he was working to create. Jonah House members live simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of militarism and consumerism. The community was born out of resistance to the Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions; later the focus became ongoing resistance to U.S. nuclear policy, including Plowshares actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world. Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison. He wrote, lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.

only welfare programs for corporations are moral in the American political ethos

Could they make the nexus any more clear?

A special government board earlier this week rejected a $1.8 billion loan guarantee request by troubled United Airlines. On friday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert blasted the move to deny a federal bailout of a major employer in his home state of Illinois.

"This is clearly a wrongheaded decision for our nation's economy on so many grounds," Hastert said in an usually strongly worded statement.

Hastert, a Republican, led a high-profile lobbying campaign on behalf of Chicago-based United, which employs 83,000 people and could be headed for bankruptcy court in the coming days.

He discussed the matter with President Bush and his senior economic advisers, including ousted Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in the weeks before Wednesday's decision by the Air Transportation Stabilization Board.

The only surprise is the government's initial rejection of the request, especially in the face of such pressures. Yes, the issues are complex, the good guys are not facing off neatly against the bad guys, and the story isn't over yet. We can be certain however that the big money will make the decision in the end, and most of the messiness will not be visible to us.

As a born-again atheist, it's the only way I can bring myself to relate in any way to the Xmas madness. It has something to do with a connection to my ethnic heritage. After tonight, the only feast I will celebrate this year is the pagan German Yule, or, interchangeably, the pagan Roman Satunalia.


Tonight's just-about-impromptu supper at home, was certainly more Italian (Roman?) than German, and it and its kind are part of the reason for my weblog-ing negligence of late:


Thinly-sliced Italian hot copa sausage on a bed of baby arugula seasoned and laced with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, together with a sturdy Puglian bread.

"Risotto alla Milanese," or a risotto composed of red onions, home-made vegetable stock, saffron threads, vermouth and grated parmesan cheese.

"Caposante in Padella con Capperi," or diver scallops pan-fried with capers, sage and meyer lemon juice.

Served with baby spinach quickly braised with oil and lemon.

French cheeses, a soft St. Felicien and a semi-soft St. Nectaire, served with thinly-sliced crusty bread.

Espresso-flavored gelato with ground espresso "sprinkles."

Turkish dried figs


Well, actually, it wasn't really much work, since a lot of it was already composed (somewhere), or, in the case of the risotto, left from the night before. Still very yum, and a great format both for music and good conversation with Barry.

--that the man sometimes described as the President of The United States is capable of awesome profundity. To wit:

"Sometimes, Washington is one of these towns where the person—people who think they've got the sharp elbow is the most effective person." —New Orleans, Dec. 3, 2002

"These people don't have tanks. They don't have ships. They hide in caves. They send suiciders out."—Speaking about terrorists, Portsmouth, N.H., Nov. 1, 2002

"If you don't have any ambitions, the minimum-wage job isn't going to get you to where you want to get, for example. In other words, what is your ambitions? And oh, by the way, if that is your ambition, here's what it's going to take to achieve it."—Speech to students in Little Rock, Ark., Aug. 29, 2002

"Nothing he [Saddam Hussein] has done has convinced me—I'm confident the Secretary of Defense—that he is the kind of fellow that is willing to forgo weapons of mass destruction, is willing to be a peaceful neighbor, that is—will honor the people—the Iraqi people of all stripes, will—values human life. He hasn't convinced me, nor has he convinced my administration."—Crawford, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002

Sleep tight.

Unfortuantely I cannot find an image online, but there's an incredible photograph on page B4 of today's NYTimes which appears, I guess without any intended irony, and it says it all. The image is one of two which ostensibly only illustrate holiday tree lighting ceremonies, one at Lincoln Center the City's official cultural capitol and the other on the corner of Wall Street which serves as the entire nation's money capitol.

The front of the Stock Exchange is completely covered by an enormous American flag (there since September, 2001) and its columned porch also supports, somewhat redundantly, three smaller (twenty foot long?) versions, while standing in the middle and totally blocking what should be the ancient public thoroughfare known as Broad Street is the enormous cult symbol known as the Christmas tree.

MONEY + FLAG + CHRIST How can we miss the point?

In case anyone is worried, yes the Lincoln Center Plaza photograph shows that the American flag is prominently displayed there as well, if not with the total abandon shown further downtown.

We were part of a very lucky audience at John Jay College last night where Trisha Brown Dance Company, Simon Keenlyside and Pedja Muzijevic opened with their production of Franz Schubert's magnificent "Winterreise" (winter journey).

There are five more performances, through the thirteenth of December, and I could not recomend it more highly.

Wonderful music of course, and both it and the dark melancholy of the texts seems more modern in the somber days of the third millennium than it might ever have before, but it comes with the perfect sympathy of Muzijevic's piano, with Brown's brilliant choreography, three very, very beautiful young dancers (Brandi Norton, Seth Parker and Lionel Popkin), Elizabeth Cannon's costumes-you'd-want-to-wear-if-you looked-so-good and Jennifer Tipton's lighting.

Igniting the whole and garnering the hearts of the audience is the strong, wonderful baritone who not incidently manages at once to look both studly and cute, boyish and stalwart, indeed ageless. Keenlyside more than holds his own with the dancers in his beautiful and controlled movements, and occasionally breaks out in breathtaking leaps and bounds all the while performing vocally in peak form for seventy minutes straight.

Is it necessary to stage or choreograph an evening of songs? Schubert himself didn't even think of them as an integral set, and there is no narrative unity, but they have often been presented in concert and recordings as a cycle, so while the answer is obviously no, I will say that I had never understood them so well as individual pieces or as a set until I heard and saw them performed as they were last evening.

By the way, we saw Keenlyside as the beautiful eponymous lead in Britten's "Billy Budd" in Vienna this fall. Yes, grand opera, lieder and he can dance too!

The "Winterreise" reviews won't appear for another day or so. In the interim, and in supplement, there is this interesting preview article from the NYTimes.

For more, see Keenlyside's biography and this review of a "Winterreise" in London absent the choreography.

For tickets [hurry, before the reviews hit the streets and the ether] see John Jay College.

Fortunately we have already seen an enormous number of articulate essays expressing outrage that Henry Kisssinger has been appointed to head the outrageously tardy formation of a commission charged with investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept.11. Here's another.

Unfortunately, nothing will come of this outrage and we will remain saddled with what the world will see as a cover-up constructed by political insiders and presided over by a man who has managed to ensure that most of his own sordid career remains a closed book, a man, incidently, who currently cannot travel outside this country without risking subpoena or arrest in connection with war crimes for which he is alleged to be responsible. Nice start for reassuring the world of our virtue and innocence.

The "war crime" charge against Kissinger became something of a scare in London earlier this year. During Kissinger's visit to Royal Albert Hall, human rights activists staged a protest, some banging drums and chanting "evil war criminal" outside. Peter Tatchell had just lost a court fight to have Kissinger jailed for the "killing, injuring and displacement" of some 3 million Vietnamese and Cambodians during America's military involvement in Indochina. Earlier, the Spanish judge who prosecuted Gen. Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity had tried to get permission to question Kissinger in the case. Specifically, the judge was interested in Kissinger's possible knowledge or involvement in a plan Latin America's military regimes had employed to get rid of their opposition. The British Home Office denied the judge permission to question Kissinger during his visit to London.

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