Politics: February 2003 Archives

In fact he has always been truly free, but the great and tender soul of Reza K. Baluchi was officially granted political asylum yesterday by U.S. immigration judge LaMonte Freerks. Today his body remains in jail, because the INS itself hasn't yet decided whether they will appeal. They have 30 days to decide whether they will try again to throw him to the tender mercies of the Iranian government which had tortured him and from which he fled 6 years ago. Iran, of course, is part of the administration's own invention, the "axis of evil," regardless of the merits of that designation.

During his asylum hearing, which began Monday, Mr. Baluchi was nervous, said his lawyer, Suzannah Maclay of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project.

"He was clearly very anxious," Ms. Maclay said. "He had expected to get a final decision, and instead he's taken back to detention."

But Baluchi is definitely not down yet.
"Today I'm happy," Mr. Baluchi said with his customary optimism after the hearing. Once he gets out, he said, he plans to ride to Los Angeles. From there, he will run across the country, eight hours a day, to New York City — and ground zero. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Baluchi wrote that he would conclude his voyage at the site of the World Trade Center, "so that my message of peace and love can reach the whole American people."

Nicolás Dumit Estévez and his performance piece, his art, was assaulted by New York City Police on Valentine's Day. They succeeded in shutting down his activities for the day, but the artist and the work somehow survives. Here he describes the project which he began and which the police concluded. The art survived the experience, and was made more powerful for having been so outrageously challenged, but the honor of our Police Department was again compromised, and in the same degree.

NOTES ON "LOVE IS BLIND" An intervention developed by Nicolás Dumit Estévez and modified by the New York City Police

On February 14 I left El Museo del Barrio blindfolded, unaware of what I would see at the end of a performance piece that I called "Love is Blind," which was part of "The Love a Commuter Project." This project consists of a series of site-specific performances and interventions that take place every year on Valentine's day in the New York City subway system. In 2003 the project was presented in conjunction with "The S Files" at El Museo del Barrio. Besides watching out for some icy spots on the sidewalk, my job during the performance was to locate pedestrians who would help me find the way to the subway station at 110th and Lexington Avenue in exchange for a white carnation. The plan was to save the remaining part of the bouquet to share with subway commuters. Along the way to the subway station a policewoman helped me cross under the tunnel below the train tracks on Park Avenue, and an older woman who spoke Spanish proffered a blessing "Dios te bendiga mi hijo," after making sure I was going to be ok. Someone who I perceived as a strong man grabbed me by the arm to help me walk from 108th to 109th Street, while a disgruntled pedestrian tried to confuse me when I asked him for directions. "You're at 125th St.," he said, while my Samaritan told me that we were crossing 108th. Another man helped me make it all the way down the stairs of the subway station. I remember feeling his hand as he took mine and guided it to the cold metal railing. I then proceeded to use the white cane I was carrying to search for an empty spot near the token booth. I found one on the north side of the station. Two children initiated the first underground interaction as they detached several carnations from the bouquet. "Take another one for your mother," yelled a commuter, perhaps from the other side of the turnstile. "Don't touch them," said an adult to a child who insisted on having one of the carnations. What felt to me like a rushing commuter snapped up a flower without giving me time readjust the bouquet in my hand. Then there were the predictable quiet moments between the departure and arrival of the Number 6 train. All of the sudden, the hissing sound of police walkie-talkies invaded the space. That day the city was under Code Orange, raised from Yellow by the Department of Homeland Security. Sensing what might be happening, I took the blindfold off and walked above ground to find that three uniformed officers were questioning my colleague Manuel Acevedo, who was videotaping the project, as well as a friend who came to watch the piece. After several attempts to explain what we were doing, we were ushered into the back of a car and driven to the precinct, where I managed to make a quick phone call from my cell phone before one of the agents confiscated my phone and Manuel's video camera. We were not permitted to contact anyone else. At the precinct I glanced at a booklet on fighting terrorism and the snapshots of several individuals who were wanted by the Law. We had plenty of time to kill as the agents busied themselves swiping our ID cards and figuring out what was recorded on the video camera they could not manage to operate. About 40 minutes later, an officer came to us and asked us to show him the video. He later return with our IDs, shook our hands and apologized. We could go. I remember shaking his hand while holding the bouquet in my other hand, when suddenly the friend who came to watch the piece took the flowers and tossed them into the trash, perhaps trying to rid himself of the memories of the incident. I rushed to retrieve them. The carnations still looked fresh, ready for other commuters to pluck them from the foam that held them in place. Instead, they ended up in a glass vase at home, as a reminder of how current law enforcement in the name of "safety" has reconfigured the use of the spaces we share in the city, not to mention the interactions we forge with one another in these so-called public places.

Nicolás Dumit Estévez
February 21, 2003, New York City

The little big brother* just doesn't quit. Yesterday Bushie announced once again that we are going to war to make peace.


*

The three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

George Orwell "1984"

The Blue Button Project is beginning to take on a life of its own.

I've watched it as it evolved out of frustration and horror into a resolve and finally a tool with which to do something about the terror U.S. policy is responsible for around the world. I'm exhilarated to be now regularly running into people on the streets and elsewhere who are wearing the Blue Button and willing to express resistance to the injuries being done to all of us around the world, supposedly at our own bidding and for our own good.

Check out the site now, and see how or where you can find the Button, and please let us know if you have any ideas for increasing its visibility.

I do look at the sports pages! It's just that I don't look for what most everyone else looks for. Sometimes it's an item about culture, the large-mouth bass, a really hot photograph, a heart-warming human vignet, and sometimes it's about freedom.

Yesterday I first read in the NYTimes Sports pages about what many had already heard, that a young woman at Manhattanville College, Toni Smith, was bravely exercising her freedom of speech on the floor of a basketball court.

It was the smallest of gestures inside the tiniest of college basketball gymnasiums, a half-revolution of the body that had gone unnoticed for months.

But a few weeks ago, people at Manhattanville College's women's basketball games began to recognize that the senior guard Toni Smith would quietly turn her back to the American flag during the pregame playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," a silent protest, they learned, of America's potential involvement in an Iraqi war.

Two nights ago her stand, and the enormous outrage it provokes among Americans who wrap themselves in the flag rather than defend the liberties it represents, came to the attention of the world.Smith's noiseless protest led to a clamorous, sellout crowd for a game inside Manhattanville's 50-year-old, 300-seat, cinder block gym tonight in the middle of the college's leafy campus 25 miles north of New York City. It brought 15 protesters outside the college's main gate waving flags and placards, and a retinue of police officers and security guards to watch them. It attracted 20 photographers and a handful of national television cameramen who encircled the Manhattanville bench to get a glimpse of Smith as she turned her back and stared at the floor.
A very impressive letter in today's Times represents a sharp understanding of the significance of Smith's gesture and why we should be very concerned about those who are so outraged by it.
THE ATHLETE AND THE FLAG

To the Editor:

Re "Player's Protest Over the Flag Divides Fans" (Sports pages, Feb. 26):

On the one hand, patriotic Americans appear obsessed with the flag as a symbol of cherished freedoms. On the other hand, many of the same Americans are angry and intolerant when Toni Smith exercises her right to practice the most fundamental of those freedoms.

Toni Smith, a senior guard on Manhattanville College's women's basketball team, turns her back to the flag during the pregame playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to silently protest America's potential involvement in a war on Iraq.

The rancor exceeds mere disagreement. The patriots are offended by Toni Smith's observance of a First Amendment right.

Because free speech is so fundamental to American notions of freedom, the act of protest is inherently patriotic, regardless of the point of view or substance. If that is not the case, it is immaterial whether the military has fought and sacrificed for the First Amendment freedom to protest.

MICHAEL HEILBRONNER
Portland, Ore., Feb. 26, 2003

Some mornings really manage to do what mornings are supposed to do: restore your faith in the world, its beauty and its possibilities.

Today I read a NYTimes follow-up on the story of the Michigan high school student who is paying attention to his world and who knows his (theoretical) rights.

Bretton Barber, a high school junior in Dearborn Heights, Mich., who is deeply interested in civil liberties, knew what to do when he was sent home from school on Feb. 17 for wearing a T-shirt with a picture of President Bush and the words "International Terrorist."

First, he called the American Civil Liberties Union. But it being Washington's Birthday, no one answered.

Next he went on the Internet to re-read a Supreme Court case from 1969, Tinker v. Des Moines, that supported students' freedom of expression. Then he called the Dearborn High School principal to talk about his constitutional rights. And then he called the news media.

Barber had been told by the vice-principal that he couldn't wear the shirt because it promotes terrorism. Go figure.

Norman Mailer argues in the International Herald Tribune that "the Bushites" really believe that the only way to save America (from the decadence whose mention makes their "conservative" partners slaver and drool) is to build a military empire. That our own democracy will be destroyed in the process is of no concern to these interests.

He recognizes that in the end we may not go to war against Iraq, and he believes that if that happens, "Bush is in terrible trouble." He's not optimistic however.

My guess though, is that, like it or not, want it or not, America is going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see.

The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives. It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system. And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way. My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now - suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.

Indeed, democracy is the special condition - a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.

A charming and winning young Iranian who knows about war was arrested in Arizona last November as an "illegal" after pedaling around the world for six years in the name of peace. He may be deported.

Originally, he planned to end his trip in Canada, but while standing on the Champs-Élysées on Sept. 11, 2001, his mission became clear: ride to Ground Zero on the first anniversary of the attacks and present to the American people the good wishes that he had collected on his travels.

Then he got caught on Nov. 10. Immigration officials confirm that Mr. Baluchi had applied for a visa in Monterrey, Mexico. He was found with little beyond a tent, the binder of clippings, some personal effects and a mass-produced bicycle. The little man with the big heart can be persuasive when he starts to cry. "I sorry. I make mistake. I love America."

He doesn't seem to understand his situation, as he runs circles around the exercise yard in the detention facility where he currently resides.
"I go Ground Zero," he said. "I have something for people. Love."
This week Reza K. Baluchi had his opportunity to explain himself in fededral immigration court. The judge is expected to rule on thursday whether he will be sent back to Iran where he has already served 18 months in prison for association with "counterrevolutionaries."

For for more about this "idyllic wanderer who thinks one man can change the world," but at the risk of breaking down while reading it, see The Arizona Republic story I found on the interesting, "The Iranian," website.

Instead of bicycling from Los Angeles to New York, Reza Baluchi intends to run the final 2,500 miles.

"I cannot stop me," he says. "I run for peace."


For great pictures and stuff see this website and this one, apparently the work of admirers.

A really snappy OP-ED piece from a, er, Frenchie, was jumping off the page in Sunday's NYTimes. Régis Debray asks when will Washington learn to count to three.

["Old Europe"] now knows that the planet is too complex, too definitively plural to suffer insertion into a monotheistic binary logic: white or black, good or evil, friend or enemy.
Debray warns that a U.S. which misunderstands its real interests will, like all empires, coast, from military victory to military victory, to its final decline.
"Old Europe," the Europe of Crusades and expeditionary forces, which long sought by sword and gun to subjugate Jerusalem, Algiers, Timbuktu and Beijing, has learned to distinguish between politics and religion. In 1965, one of its old champions, de Gaulle, loyally warned his American friends that their B-52's would not be able to do anything against Vietnamese nationalism — and that to devastate a country is not the same as winning hearts and minds. Europe no longer takes its civilization for civilization itself, no doubt because it is better acquainted with foreign cultures, notably Islam. Our suburbs, after all, pray to Allah.

Europe has learned modesty. A civilization that believes itself capable of making do without other civilizations tends to be headed toward its doom. To be sure, in defending its interests a great nation may end up promoting freedom. Such was the situation with the concentration camps. It will not be the case for the $15 barrel of crude.

The stakes are spiritual. Europe defends a secular vision of the world. It does not separate matters of urgency from long-term considerations. The United States compensates for its shortsightedness, its tendency to improvise, with an altogether biblical self-assurance in its transcendent destiny. Puritan America is hostage to a sacred morality; it regards itself as the predestined repository of Good, with a mission to strike down Evil. Trusting in Providence, it pursues a politics that is at bottom theological and as old as Pope Gregory VII [11th century].

Europe no longer possesses that euphoric arrogance. It is done mourning the Absolute and conducts its politics . . . politically. It is past the age of ultimatums, protectorates at the other end of the planet, and the white man's burden. Is that the age America is intent on entering? One can only wish it good luck.

Harvey Wasserman, activist and longtime leader of the anti-nuclear movement, says that, "in terms of basic legal rights and sanctuary from government spying, Americans may be less free under George W. Bush than as British subjects under George III in 1776."

Though the trappings of free speech remain on the surface of American society, the Homeland Security Act, Patriot I, Patriot II and other massively repressive legislation, plus Republican control of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, plus GOP dominance of the mass media, have laid the legal and political framework for a totalitarian infrastructure which, when combined with the capabilities of modern computer technology, may be unsurpassed.
Wasserman's list of the administration's assaults and treasons is awesome, and it's not even exhaustive.
President Bush has asserted the right to execute "suspected terrorists" without trial or public notice;

The Administration claims the right to torture "suspected terrorists," and by many accounts has already done so;

Attorney-General John Ashcroft has asserted the right to brand "a terrorist" anyone he wishes without evidence or public hearing or legal recourse;

The Administration has arrested and held without trial hundreds of "suspected terrorists" while denying them access to legal counsel or even public notification that they have been arrested;

The Administration has asserted the right to inspect the records of bookstores and public libraries to determine what American citizens are reading;

The Administration has asserted the right to break into private homes and tap the phones of US citizens without warrants;

The Administration has attempted to install a neighbors-spying-on-neighbors network that would have been the envy of Joe Stalin;

The Administration has effectively negated the Freedom of Information Act and runs by all accounts the most secretive regime in US history;

When the General Accounting Office, one of the few reliably independent federal agencies, planned to sue Vice President Dick Cheney to reveal who he met to formulate the Bush Energy Bill, Bush threatened to slash GAO funding, and the lawsuit was dropped;

After losing the 2000 election by more than 500,000 popular votes (but winning a 5-4 majority of the US Supreme Court), the Administration plans to control all voting through computers operated by just three companies, with code that can be easily manipulated, as may have been done in Georgia in 2002, winning seats for a Republican governor and US senator, and in Nebraska to elect and re-elect US Senator Chuck Hagel, an owner of the voting machine company there;

FCC Chair Michael Powell (son of Colin) is enforcing the Administration's demand that regulation be ended so nearly all mass media can be monopolized by a tiny handful of huge corporations;

Attorney-General Ashcroft has assaulted states rights, a traditional Republican mainstay, using federal troops to trash public referenda legalizing medical marijuana in nine states;

Ashcroft has overridden his own federal prosecutors and assaulted local de facto prohibitions against the death penalty, which has been renounced by every other industrial nation and is now used only by a handful of dictatorships, including Iraq.

After describing the overseas record of previous administrations and the cynical devices and shameful depredations of this one, Wasserman concludes,
In other words: the media hype about bringing democracy to Iraq is just that. There is absolutely no reason to believe a US military conquest would bring to Iraq the beloved freedoms George W. Bush is so aggressively destroying here in America.

A regime that so clearly hates democracy at home is not about to wage war for one abroad.

In an open letter to the online magazine, Atrios shows that he understands at least part of the reason they aren't making enough money to survive.

. . . I have to say that your continued promotion of incoherent lunatics such as Andrew Sullivan doesn't help the cause much. Aside from making Salon look completely foolish, Andy's presence in your magazine really destroys whatever warm fuzzy feelings your supposedly liberal readership might have. I mean, hey, I could be wrong - I don't have information about your subscribers or your site traffic, but I have a hard time believing that people are really going to pay to read essentially the same drivel - "LIBERALS STUPID AND BAD AND TREASONOUS" - that they can read for free over in his own little sandbox. I subscribe, I encourage others to do so, but I can't really fault their reasons for not doing so.

And those who live in New York City are the smartest of all.

Recent Gallup and Siena polls, when compared, show that the prospect of bombing and invading Iraq is less popular in New York State than in the nation as a whole, and still less popular in the city whose losses of September 11 are the White House's excuse for the war.

The concept and call, "not in our name" started in New York and it's support still remains strongest in this most American of places.

I went to the INS Building this morning to be a part of the demonstration against "Special Registration."

What I really did was join about two hundred people who are willing to make at least a small fuss about the fact that our government is now practicing de jure racism, establishment of religion, and age and sex discrimination.

Most everyone there this morning and well into the afternoon were what some call "brown people." They were bright and beautiful people from proscribed muslim countries stretching from Morocco to Indonesia, and from North Korea [I don't think I could have pointed out anyone from North Korea today, but that is another story] whose boys and young men have been ordered to "register" with the federal immigration authorities.

If they don't show up they are subject to prosecution and deportation (if they are found). If they do show up to register it means that, after standing in the cold for hours, they are subject to being photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated. Hundreds have then been incarcerated (many flown out of their states for the lack of large enough detention facilities), some for various minor infractions, others for being a couple of days late in registering and many because of administrative errors or backlog within the INS itself. Many of those in these prisons who have been able to communicate with people outside have reported being strip searched, held in crowded and unheated quarters and denied food and medicines. Most have had no access to an attorney.

Their offense was and remains that of not being American citizens.

There were few "American citizens" among those protesting on lower Broadway on this, or on previous occasions, in front of the sad line of INS "clients" which winds around the corner on Federal Plaza every day. This is a terrible indictment of the city to whom the French nation made a gift of the Statue of Liberty.

If we all understood that there really is no such thing as "illegal people," and that there are no "aliens" anywhere on the planet, there would not even have been the need for a protest today.

All this should be especially important for Americans to remember today as our Constitution is being disassembled.

A young man handed a blue triangle emblem to me this morning. Seventy years ago the Nazis had designated a blue triangle as the identification of "stateless" people of all descriptions. My plain triangle bears the text,

ABDOU TAGELDIN
35 YEARS OLD
EGYPTIAN
DISAPPEARED
IN THE USA
There are many, many other identities on many, many of these triangles.

This monstrousness must be stopped.

This administration does martial plans, not Marshall Plans: billions for offense, not one cent for reconstruction.
Paul Krugman speaks of the proud, generous and sensible postwar U.S. which, yes, reconstructed Europe and Japan from ashes, disgrace or penury, bringing victors and vanquished together to the very highest level of friendship and cooperation. He compares that accomplishment with the cowardly, stingy and very stupid U.S. which is now throwing its weight around the world thrashing every friend in sight, imagining enemies which aren't and encouraging those which are, to bring the world to the brink of anarchy and disaster.

We've already failed the test in the eyes of the world. The Bush regime is offering grand promises and monetary handouts to create and maintain a domestic and a foreign "coalition of the willing," but the world has seen the White House abandon its promises and withhold its subsidies once it has gotten what it wanted, whether the victim has been the Kurds, Afghanistan or New York City. Turkey and democracy in Iraq will be next.

If this all sounds incredibly callous and shortsighted, that's because it is. But then what did you expect? This administration doesn't worry about long-term consequences — just look at its fiscal policy. It wants its war; there's not the slightest indication that it's interested in the boring, expensive task of building a just and lasting peace.

Barry posts this tonight:

I think the logic of all of the people who say anti-war protesters are coddling (or appeasing) a dictator boils down to this: "If those Iraqis knew what was good for them, they would let us bomb them to rescue them from Saddam Hussein and bring them democracy."

Isn't there another real New Yorker out there right now besides Jimmy Breslin?

Today he writes, just before citing Wayne Barrett in this week's Village Voice, that he usually doesn't quote other people, "because as I have just said, I am interested in my own voice." And what a voice! For very good reasons, I'm not very interested in my voice, so here are some quotes from Jimmy's column today, on the subject of Mayor Bloomberg's idea of free speech:

[Bloomberg had said after the march on saturday that people who wanted to protest certainly had the ability to do so. Breslin quotes him here as the Mayor elaborates.] "Maybe not as much as they'd like, but given that this is a dangerous world, I thought the Police Department did an excellent job of balancing the rights of people to say what they want to say with the needs of all of us, and all of them, to provide security for everybody."

I don't know where Bloomberg gets that from.

I don't know where he gets the idea that anybody can be pleased with any situation in which the right to assemble can be blocked and the right to speak can be thwarted.

I don't know where he gets the idea that he can judge how much free speech I want.

The answer is, all that my voice can stand.

We can't help Dan'l. Dan'l can't help us.

It turns out that he was not being sarcastic when he ended his account of being handcuffed and searched by subway soldiers with assault rifles sunday night by saying, "anyway, i have to say that i feel safer after all this than i did before...."

Barry and I, and many others who read about the incident on his site or on mine, had a different take on his experience and we wanted to report it, make a formal protest and get it to the media, believing that there was still a possibility we could make a difference amid the ruins of our republic.

But without Dan'l we can't help him and he can't help us.

We're scared to death and the bad guys are way abead.

Giving it one more try, this afternoon I got through to Councilmember Chis Quinn's office [in whose district our sightings and Dan'l's assault and arrest occurred] to ask what the office knew, and to seek her help, but they knew less than I did and told me what I already knew, that if my friend was not interested in complaining there was nothing they could do. Her assistant, Jeremy Hoffman, is however going to consult with Congressman Nadler's office and make serious inquiries with the Mayor's office, the Police Chief and the Office of Emergency Management. Continued silence is our most formidable enemy.

If we can't have a role in the decisions which direct our fate, we can at least hope to make those decisions more visible. Let's at least throw some light on the fungus while it is working its destruction.

Speak up, act up, fight back, fight tyranny!

What an incredibly powerful piece! Nathan Newman compares the new Israeli wall separating Arabs from the Jewish part of Bethelhem to the Warsaw Ghetto.

When the Nazi comparison is made, Israel defenders mount the barricades, since the Palestinians are not being gassed in ovens. But the horrors of Nazism started much earlier, as the Jews were stripped of their humanity and autonomy long before they lost their lives.
Newman does not let us off easily.
No, it is not Nazi Germany circa 1943.

It is Nazi Germany circa 1938.

Those who can defend Israel on that basis should be ashamed.

The Israeli author Amos Oz explains why "many decent people of enlightened and pragmatic views oppose an invasion against Iraq."

And I do object to an Iraq invasion — because I feel that extremist Islam can be stopped only by moderate Islam, and extremist Arab nationalism can be curbed only by moderate Arab nationalism. America, Europe and the moderate Arab states must work to weaken Saddam Hussein's despicable regime — but they should do so by helping those who would topple it from within.

An American war against Iraq, even if it ended in victory, is liable to heighten the sense of affront, humiliation, hatred and desire for vengeance that much of the world feels toward the United States. It threatens to arouse a wave of fanaticism with the power to undermine the very existence of moderate governments in the Middle East and beyond. This pending war is already splitting the alliance of democratic states and cracking the ramshackle edifice of the United Nations and its institutions. Ultimately, this will benefit only the violent and fanatical forces menacing the peace of the world.

Allow me to digress a bit. While he doesn't say it himself here, there is of course no way to avoid including the Bush administration as among the most deadly of those forces.

Think about it. When has one man been able to threaten the peace and security of the entire planet on his own? No, Osama Bin Laden doesn't cut it, even Hitler couldn't stride the geography our very own madman does, and Napoleon's brief European hegemony, Mr. Blair, at least brought many of the blessings of the French Revolution permanently to parts of Europe still suffering a plodding medieval system.

The crowd count?

I thought that I had already mentioned the really extraordinary absence of any aerial photographic evidence of the size of the massive New York anti-war protest saturday. I just checked however, and it seems that I had not, as bj reminds me this morning in his comment.

In this commercial media-mad world I think there can be only one reason why we see nothing.

I've seen aerial photos of rallies all around the world, but, in spite of the obvious presence of helicopters over our heads all day, not one shot of the New York protest taken from the air. A single photograph of hundreds of thousands of people standing in the perfect line-graph-like grid of Manhattan would just about end arguments about whether we were 100,000 strong or closer to one million, and these numbers do matter.

I am certain that the reason we are seeing nothing reflects the continuing deliberate cover-up of the anti-war movement by both government and the U.S. media.

Europeans aren't just being obstructive. Paul Krugman points out that it's just that they can see what is being kept from us. [That man is asking to be sacked!]

There has been much speculation why Europe and the U.S. are suddenly at such odds. Is it about culture? About history? But I haven't seen much discussion of an obvious point: We have different views partly because we see different news.

. . .

So why don't other countries see the world the way we do? News coverage is a large part of the answer. Eric Alterman's new book, "What Liberal Media?" doesn't stress international comparisons, but the difference between the news reports Americans and Europeans see is a stark demonstration of his point. At least compared with their foreign counterparts, the "liberal" U.S. media are strikingly conservative — and in this case hawkish.

I'm not mainly talking about the print media. There are differences, but the major national newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. at least seem to be describing the same reality.

Most people, though, get their news from TV — and there the difference is immense. The coverage of Saturday's antiwar rallies was a reminder of the extent to which U.S. cable news, in particular, seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media.

What would someone watching cable news have seen? On Saturday, news anchors on Fox described the demonstrators in New York as "the usual protesters" or "serial protesters." CNN wasn't quite so dismissive, but on Sunday morning the headline on the network's Web site read "Antiwar rallies delight Iraq," and the accompanying picture showed marchers in Baghdad, not London or New York.

This wasn't at all the way the rest of the world's media reported Saturday's events, but it wasn't out of character. For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.

So it's not surprising that the target audience is a bit blurry about the distinction between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. Surveys show that a majority of Americans think that some or all of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi, while many believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11, a claim even the Bush administration has never made. And since many Americans think that the need for a war against Saddam is obvious, they think that Europeans who won't go along are cowards.

Europeans, who don't see the same things on TV, are far more inclined to wonder why Iraq — rather than North Korea, or for that matter Al Qaeda — has become the focus of U.S. policy. That's why so many of them question American motives, suspecting that it's all about oil or that the administration is simply picking on a convenient enemy it knows it can defeat. They don't see opposition to an Iraq war as cowardice; they see it as courage, a matter of standing up to the bullying Bush administration.

Breslin says that George Bush, the Mayor and the Police Chief's "only excuse could be that they were practicing for the Republican National Convention. That one is going to be the great one." And, "They penned in throngs [Breslin says "almost a million," while Chief Kelly still insists it was only a hundred thousand] of smiling people as if they were cattle. It wasn't the cops' idea to do it. All they did was carry out orders as poorly as possible."

The idea of rebuffing and then penning people up is the responsibility of Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly. They decided to suffocate free speech and right of assembly and block the march. They did it to stop the one picture that would have had the most impact of any in the world, that of an immense crowd in New York walking against war.

It was done to help George Bush have his war. Deny it if you can.

Is it really so dificult to get a picture of the man that doesn't shout his stupidity? Or, is the media finally trying to warn the world? [Make sure you click onto the image for a larger, more delicious version.]

Oh yeah, this is from the story that accompanies the wonderful photograph:

In a huge wave of demonstrations not seen since the Vietnam War, more than 6 million peace protesters took to the streets in 600 towns and cities from Cape Town to Chicago on Saturday.

Bush told reporters that "democracy is a beautiful thing and people are allowed to express their opinion" but that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a risk to peace.

He's a Brit addressing the Brits, but the argument and the message is the same for us Yanks. John Pilger [excerpt]:

First, let us stop calling it a "war". The last time "war" was used in the Gulf was in 1991 when the truth was buried with more than 200,000 people. Attacking a 70-mile line of trenches, three American brigades, operating at night, used 60-ton armored earthmovers to bury alive teenage Iraqi conscripts, including the wounded and those surrendering and retreating. Survivors were slaughtered from the air. The helicopter gunship pilots called it a "turkey shoot".

Of the 148 Americans who died, a quarter of them were killed by Americans. Most of the British were killed by Americans. This was known as "friendly fire". The civilians who were killed, whose deaths were never recorded by the American military because it was "not policy", were "collateral damage".

Today, after 13 years of an economic blockade that has been compared with a medieval siege, Iraq is defenseless, no matter the discovery of an odd missile that can reach barely 90 miles. Its ragtag army is woefully under-equipped and awaiting its fate, along with a civilian population of whom 42 per cent are children. They are stricken. Even the export of British manufactured vaccines meant to protect Iraqi infants from diphtheria and yellow fever has been restricted. The vaccines, say the Blair government, are "capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction".

This is the nation upon which the Bush gang says it will rain down 800 missiles within the space of two days. "Shock and awe" the Pentagon calls its "strategy". Meanwhile the weapons inspectors and their morose Swedish leader go about their treasure hunt and a cartoon show is hosted in the UN by General Colin Powell (who rose to the top by covering up the notorious My Lai massacre in Vietnam).

It is all a charade. The Americans want Iraq because they want to control and reorder the Middle East. Their once-favorite dictator, Saddam Hussein, made the mistake of misreading the signals from Washington in 1990 and invading another favorite American oil tyranny, Kuwait. So belatedly, Saddam must be replaced, preferably by another Saddam, though more reliable and less uppity. There is no issue of "weapons of mass destruction". That is a distraction for us and the media.

The wider significance of the promised attack is the rapacious nature of the American state. As Tony Blair has confirmed, North Korea is likely to be "next". I think he is wrong and that Iran will be next. That is what the Israeli regime wants and Israel's wishes are as important to influential members of the Bush gang as oil. Thereafter, there is China. Says Anatol Lieven of the Carnegie Institute in Washington: "What radical US nationalists have in mind is either to 'contain' China by overwhelming military force or to destroy the Chinese Communist state."

ONE of the Bush gang's planners, Richard Perle, has said: "If we let our vision of the world go forth and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war ... our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Barry and I saw soldiers in the subway on Valentine's day, in "camouflage" [no, they weren't wearing tar paper] and armed with assault weapons, but we thought they were, what, just window dressing for the White House's orange alert games? Or, whatever. Nothing surprises us any more. Tonight we heard in a blog from a friend who found out, the hard way, that we are actually under an occupying army. Dan'l describes his evening in his own words:

if you live in new york city you've probably seen the (hot) national guardsmen taking up residence in our subway stations lately... i have to admit that i was a little unnerved the first time i saw assault rifles on the platform, but i was just starting to get used to it... until...

tonight i entered the ACE station at 34th street carrying an overnight bag (containing my computer, clothes, and personal hygiene products) and a shopping bag with groceries i'd just bought for the making of peach cobbler... i was gonna travel up to 103rd street to stay the night with charlie... we'd be waking up late, cooking all day and eventually going outside to play in the blizzard that's hitting the city right now... anyway, as i approached the edge of the platform, one of these camouflaged yummies steps in front of me and asks me to step aside... "we're going to ask you to set your bags down and remove your coat and hat..."

[hmmm,] i think, [are we doing random security checks now like they do in airports???] yes sir, of course...

i do as instructed and then am handcuffed... now i'm a little freaked out...

what's going on???

"sir, we'd like to examine the contents of your bags... will we find any weapons inside???"

no... i have some clothes and my computer...

i looked down at my bag and saw that the power cord and battery were hanging out of the top... [of course that looks suspicious, you idiot!!! not to mention i had a bunch of metal cans and flour in my food emporium bag...] to make what is a very long (an hour spent with these guys) story a little shorter, i had to:


explain traveling uptown so late...
explain my computer and cell phone cords...
explain the workings of a laptop computer
explain the workings of a sprint phone...
explain pajamas with monkey print and two pairs of socks...
explain what q-tips are used for...
explain what it takes to make a peach cobbler...
prove that i'm not a terrorist and that i have no intention of building any kind of weapon...
do i look like him or him or him??? what the???

anyway, i have to say that i feel safer after all this than i did before...

Yipes! I hope Dan'l is just being sarcastic, but the important question is, does anyone know this shit is going on?

Ok, for the curious, and for those who want to know what a terrorist suspect looks like, here he is. Oh, and our monster is 5 feet 6 inches tall and 130 pounds. Cute as the dickens, but don't let that fool you.

We have to gasp involuntarily, both for our history and for our future, reading Maureen Dowd today as she attempts to describe why we will be going to war in Mesopotamia.

The painful parts of Washington history have often been about men trying harder to save face than lives.
This sentence, which already looks like an old maxim, appears in the middle of the concluding paragraphs of an essay arguing [perhaps not convincingly] that the administration is pursuing its Iraq war course only to avenge what the Right thinks was the emasculating legacy of its withdrawal in '91.

I realize that my blogs about the antiwar events of yesterday may have sounded a bit grumpy all around, so I want to take this opportunity to say that we had a blast!

Demonstrations are always good for both the body and the soul, but this was one of the most exhilarating experiences in my memory, being out there in the streets with so many kinds of magnificent, happy people [we spent much of the day in the block Jimmie Breslin describes, though we did not see him], and I believe actually making a difference this time, because we were so many.

I can understand a thinking American's considered decision to not cast a vote in the elections which have been entirely arranged for us by undemocratic process, especially in recent years, or recent decades. Our democratic institutions are an absolute mess right now. What I do not understand is the refusal of that same person to walk into the street on an occasion like yesterday, in the purest form of democratic expression. If I walk to the barricades, literally and figuratively, I'm walking with millions; if I stay away, no one is there. I cannot expect my neighbors to save the world for me on their own.

At the end of the day, we went to a performance of "Brundibar," Hans Krasa's charming children's opera which was performed dozens of times at Terezin, until the child performers were sent to the gas chambers. The opera is about the strength of numbers overcoming evil. Unfortunately those numbers never accumulated in the 1930's. We can have them today, but we're not there yet.

There I go again, grumpy.

That's it? That's the story?

The subject of the lead story at this very moment on the CNN site, which is viewed all around the planet, is the millions of people around the world protesting the imminent American war against Iraq. The CNN site's headline reads,

ANTIWAR RALLIES DELIGHT IRAQ
It looks like Rupert Murdoch's NYPost!

The first paragraph:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq was gloating Sunday over the global outpouring of opposition to a possible U.S.-led war against the country, saying the rallies by millions of people signaled an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America."
For any sceptics about the political agenda or incompetence of the American media, does this finally send a message? [CNN is actually a world news medium, but it's still the creature of its commercial American birth.]

Whether there were half a million or a million out there in the sub-freezing wind of the Manhattan canyons today, we should be enormously proud of the achievement, but we can only be horribly ashamed of the city's role in diminishing that achievement.

First "they" decided that the people could not walk past the U.N., then that the people could not get near the U.N., then that the people would be put into animal pens, then that the people would not be permitted to bus all the way into the city, then that the people could not be trusted with portable toilets. [When I heard that piece of news at home this morning, I was ready to piss on a police officer's shoes, even though I would eventually remind myself that decisions about porta-johns were not made by the rank and file.]

Governments and police are only too eager to tell us where to go and what to do, but if you were out on the street for the incredible anti-war demonstration today, or trying desperately to get to it, you saw how far they went this time and you probably have an idea of how much farther they will go the next time. In the rest of the civilized and democratic world, and even in those parts which are regarded as neither, huge numbers of people were able to assemble freely today where they chose to. They were not restricted and discouraged by the obsessive minutiae of bureaucratic and police concerns about order--and control. Americans in New York City today were confronted by a significant threat to their rights of assembly and speech.

This was a massive grassroots, democratic, political demonstration of the highest order and probably of the greatest consequence for the history of the world. It was not a sports event attended by mindless yahoos and it was not a arbitrary holiday driven by a drunken, nativist mob. Assigned and barricaded pens, totally inappropriate movement restrictions, and the threat from the visible presence of thousands of armored and helmeted police were totally out of order.

Do not trust a government which does not trust you.

____________________

For more on our own experience of today's events, see Bloggy's, "DISSENT IS HOT."

I'll be starting here.

If you're interested in getting a Blue Button, we just updated the web site with more information on how to get one, including a list of galleries that have them. More to appear on the site soon.

MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

Yup, this really is the front page of The Mirror today.


[Thanks, Otto, John and Howard.]

Gads, I wish I could have heard the hoary stentorian himself, Senator Robert Byrd, when he was delivering this oration!

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events.

And that was only the beginning of the speech he delivered in the Senate Chamber yesterday; Byrd had not even started on his indictment, but ultimately he reserved the heavy guns for an attack on the administration. An excerpt:
Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.

In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.

In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.

Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.

Why are we expecting an imminent low-tech assault, a missile-launcher, a piloted plane missile, an atomic or radioactive dirty bomb, a chemical or biological attack at this time?

What has happened to this country that we could completely lose our sanity and our soul in just two years? Ok, maybe it took longer, but they are both definitely missing at this time. If the danger now being evoked is not all just a fabrication of a regime in Washington which needs to warn of an imminent threat in order to justifty itself, could it be a consequence of our doing something horribly wrong as a nation? Think about it. What happened to reason, to intelligent and generous policy, to a real connection with a larger world, one which does not consist only of violence or the threat of violence? Where is the courage and the conviction of the ideals which once shown as a beacon for much of the world?

Forget the plastic sheeting and the duct tape. Let's drive the darkness, the real terrorists, out of the White House, and let us go back to the business of being Americans!

"crasez l'infme!" [with eternal gratitude to Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)]

The march.

Barry and I will be here, in front of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library late saturday morning with the fabulous people of the "CARNIVAL BLOC FEEDER MARCH."

If any of our friends are going to be there [and why not?] and want to meet up with us, bring your cellphone so we can find each other. Call or email me before saturday if you don't already have one of our mobile numbers.

Oh yes, I'll have plenty of extra Blue Buttons with me.

This is an excerpt from as essay on ZNet by Michael Albert. It puts the current unprecedented threat to our world into its proper perspective, and it is intended to bring us all into the streets at noon this saturday.

Despite the magnitude of the indignities and deaths, it always seemed certain that the crimes of the men in grey flannel suits were just intensified business as usual. All the grim and grievous circumstances of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s never seemed to me poised to transcend existing social relations. There was no new more ugly regime threatening the world.

But I have to say that today it does seem that plans now being pursued in the suites, in the Congress, and in the White House, are not merely an intensification of business as usual.

The anti-corporate globalization movement, promising a new but much more humane world "regime", has (with good reason) seriously scared the masters of the universe. But 9/11 has given them confidence and hubris.

Capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and corporate globalization are vile enough, but every so often -- and of course the mid century Nazis were a prime example -- something even worse tries to emerge out of still deeper layers of hell, and occasionally it does. And such a scourge of evil seems perhaps to be seeking entry into our world now, all the way from the seventh circle, or further.

A piece in TIME on January 20 by Brian Eno [yeah, Brian Eno] represents the argument of a reasonable European who understands and admires America but is very concerned about what's going on here. I won't excerpt it, but will copy it whole. It's not long, and it's argument is compellingly, beautifully written.

THE U.S. NEEDS TO OPEN UP TO THE WORLD


To this European, America is trapped in a fortress of arrogance and ignorance

BY BRIAN ENO


Europeans have always looked at America with a mixture of fascination and puzzlement, and now, increasingly, disbelief. How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so dumb?"

I could fill this page with the names of Americans who have influenced, entertained and educated me. They represent what I admire about America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that things can be changed for the better. That was the America I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 until 1983. That America was an act of faith — the faith that "otherness" was not threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world could throw at it. But since Sept. 11, that vision has been eclipsed by a suspicious, introverted America, a country-sized version of that peculiarly American form of ghetto: the gated community. A gated community is defensive. Designed to keep the "others" out, it dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a lifestyle.

Surely this isn't the America that anyone dreamed of; it's a last resort, nobody's choice. It's especially ironic since so much of the best new thinking about society, economics, politics and philosophy in the last century came from America. Unhampered by the snobbery and exclusivity of much European thought, American thinkers vaulted forward — courageous, innovative and determined to talk in a public language. But, unfortunately, over the same period, the mass media vaulted backward, thriving on increasingly simple stories and trivializing news into something indistinguishable from entertainment. As a result, a wealth of original and subtle thought — America's real wealth — is squandered.

This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism. It seems content to do yoga and gender studies, leaving the fundamentalist Christian right and the multinationals to do the politics. The separation of church and state seems to be breaking down too. Political discourse is now dominated by moralizing, like George W. Bush's promotion of American "family values" abroad, and dissent is unpatriotic. "You're either with us or against us" is the kind of cant you'd expect from a zealous mullah, not an American President.

When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious. "They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the rest: among the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality, functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed world. President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress." Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance.

Europeans tend to regard free national health services, unemployment benefits, social housing and so on as pretty good models of human progress. We think it's important — civilized, in fact — to help people who fall through society's cracks. This isn't just altruism, but an understanding that having too many losers in society hurts everyone. It's better for everybody to have a stake in society than to have a resentful underclass bent on wrecking things. To many Americans, this sounds like socialism, big government, the nanny state. But so what? The result is: Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.

Too often, the U.S. presents the "American way" as the only way, insisting on its kind of free-market Darwinism as the only acceptable "model of human progress." But isn't civilization what happens when people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures? America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?

Joan Smith in The Independent asks when we're going to get over it.

If anyone had told me, in the autumn of 2001, that we were less than 18 months away from what might become the world's first nuclear war, I would have thought they were insane. In the half century since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no one has been that reckless or indeed that stupid – even, or so I thought, the Bush White House. Then came the twin towers and everything changed overnight, to the point where we find ourselves apparently on the threshold of a terrifying conflict in the Middle East. So the question I am going to ask, at the risk of causing great offence, is this: when is the US going to get over the events of 11 September?
She also soberly observes,
If the world has become a more dangerous place since 11 September 2001, it is not solely because of the activities of a bunch of Islamic terrorists.

Let us get this straight. The Bushies are going into Iraq to prevent that country from using weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear devices and chemical agents. But they have already said that to do so they may use nuclear devices themselves, and now they are saying they may also use chemical agents.

All this is supposed to make sense and appeal to the conscience of the world?

Rahul Mahajan in a response to Colin Powell:

If one believes everything Colin Powell said to the Security Council yesterday, one's first response ought to be that there's no reason to fight a war, since U.S. surveillance capabilities are so awesome that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can easily be found. And one's first question should be why has the United States for over two months withheld this apparently so damaging evidence from those weapons inspectors, who could have verified conjectures and destroyed WMD stocks and production facilities.

If indeed the evidence presented is of the character claimed by Powell, then the United States has chosen to sabotage UN Security Council Resolution 1441, clause 10 of which "Requests all Member States to give full support to UNMOVIC and the IAEA in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes."

The actual evidence may not even warrant that conclusion. What Powell served up to the Council was a sorry mess of fuzzy aerial photographs of buildings, a cute "organizational chart" of supposed al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, a couple of tape recordings that are capable of multiple interpretations and, as before, a large number of undated reports by unnamed Iraqi defectors.

. . .

It is becoming increasingly likely that the United States will obtain a Security Council resolution authorizing war. And if it does, its main argument will be that it must go to war with Iraq to uphold international law. It's important to understand ahead of time just how obscene that argument is. It's . . . .

. . . because this war is a violation of the ultimate international law. It is a "crime against peace," a war of aggression. It was decided on long ago in the White House, and the only reason other countries may vote in support of it is the repeated statements that the war will happen whether they want it or not. It is the United States holding not just Iraq but the entire world hostage.

FREEDOM ITSELF IS ON AN ORANGE ALERT

On friday New York City authorities, threatened by the Justice Department in Washington, testified in court about why they are refusing to allow an anti-war march and rally at the UN on Feb. 15.

First they had to argue why it was an inconvenience to traffic. Jimmy Breslin:

He said he hated gaps in parades. They occur in a big parade when you’re supposed to get cross-town traffic through and the marchers are stopped with gaps between them and then it starts again and people don’t move. They keep the gaps. "You can have them at a red light and it changes and they won’t move," Chief Rocco Esposito was saying in Manhattan Federal Court on Friday as day turned into evening.

. . .

Rocco Esposito was sent to make the stand for the mayor and police commissioner. He turned down the march permit and looked absolutely awful in trying to explain why. In one of the few emotional moments of the day, Esposito got on his favorite, these gaps in the parade, and complained to the court, forcefully, "You just can’t get them to move. You can’t get them."

At one point, Esposito also said, "I have information that we have an orange condition. I have orders as of 12 noon to upgrade security."

This was the level of argument in an attempt to stop free speech.

And I believe if he looks, he’ll find that New York has been on an orange alert from about the day they hit the World Trade Center.

Several times, Esposito said, "We don’t know who is coming here for the march. We don’t know who they are.”

Leslie Cagan [the activist basically coordinating this demonstration] said, "Since when in free speech do you have to say who’s coming to an event? Do you have to give the names?"

Breslin and much of the world know the real reason for the City's intransigence.
During a break, I went up to one severely dressed young man and he identified himself as Andrew O’Toole of the United States Attorney’s office. He was there to make a statement or file something to remind the court that the UN was the responsibility of the city. He was pleasant. The people who sent him over did not tell him to say "Ashcroft." He didn’t have to. He was at the city’s table and a United State Marshal who had arrived with him and was holding a hand radio stood at the door.
His conclusion:
The city says the march can’t be held because of security reasons since Sept. 11. The reasons they gave Friday made no sense at all, unless you suspect that the march is being opposed because Mayor Bloomberg is trying to help Republicans by stopping a public outcry here against the beautiful war that the administration wants against Iraq. Ray Kelly, the police commissioner, is blocking the march on behalf of Bloomberg.

I know neither one of them is unbalanced, but their work this time has been an act of madness and can do nothing but hurt their reputations with this attempted fascism, which is going to be talked about for a long time.

Free speech comes from Madison and Jefferson and Paine and people went to jail over it and were shot in wars to protect it. You can see how precious, how fragile such a blessing is by the way in which it is embroiled and disputed and can be threatened by the most modest of opponents.

The war is not yet a sure thing. Can we actually succeed in stopping it?

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. wants the City of New York to leave the State of New York.

"We send Albany $3.5 billion more than we receive back," Vallone said. "The state has treated us like an unwanted orphan for too long. It may be time for us to move out."

He plans to introduce a bill that would ask city voters whether they want a commission to study secession. If they agree, the commission will hold hearings and draft a proposal. Then voters would get one more shot at the secession question before it can move to state legislators.

If it passed muster before the Legislature, it would go to Congress.

I can think of much better reasons to secede, but not just from the state, from the nation--and now!

We are governed from Washington by a regime alien to everything New York City is about. We support in every way, and all over the world, parts of this country which can't think straight and which prefer New Yorkers would just go to hell.

Above all, we have been and will remain the primary target of violence from those who resent an American foreign policy established in provincial ignorance and founded in narrow greed. As a city however, we are loved by and have captured the imagination of a world which sees us as smart, open and damn good company, reason enough to establish an independent identity without delay.

There is a very moving paid announcement on the top right corner of page A8 of today's NYTimes. It consists of the text of a resolution passed by the government of the City of Geneva for submission to the federal Swiss goverment, and nothing else.

RESOLUTION BY THE AUTHORITIES OF THE CITY OF GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Considering that:

Geneva, as the European headquarters of the United Nations Organization (UN), is a center of negotiation, mediation and the search for peaceful solutions;

as such, our City is a member of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities, of which it currently holds the Presidency;

the likelihood of a military intervention by the United States and their allies against Iraq is an ever-increasing threat;

sanctions imposed on Iraq are already inflicting the sufferings of war on its population;

in the event of war, the first victims will as usual be innocent civilians;

international law, and the institutions responsible for ensuring its application, provide a more effective guarantee for peace and democracy than do the weapons and culture of war,

the authorities of the City of Geneva invite the Swiss government to use all means within its power to prevent war, in particular by intervening in favor of peace, within the framework of the UN.

What you cannot see on this screen is the Coat of Arms at the top of the text. Below the shield is a pennant bearing the City's optimistic motto "Post tenebras lux" (after the darkness, the light). The motto had its origin in the middle of the 16th century. It refers to the Reformation. May it be an omen for our own age of darkness.

The members of the administration in Washington are either reading their history these days, or they're definitely not.

Poland was partitioned and occupied by three autocracies beginning in the eighteenth century and simply disappeared until the end of the First World War. Once again, in 1939, Poland was dissolved, after a heroic struggle, into the territories of the two dictatorships which had succeeded the old trio of Russia, Prussia and Austria. Today the U.S. and Turkey are planning to partition another state, Iraq, in the name of stability, security and peace, the same rationale offered by superpowers in the eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century, and once again in the twentieth. With the planned initiation of hostilities, Turkey is to occupy the homeland of the Kurds in northern Iraq, according to plans being prepared by American and Turkish diplomats.

The plan, which is being negotiated in closed-door meetings in Ankara, the Turkish capital, is being bitterly resisted by at least some leaders of Iraq's Kurdish groups, who fear that Turkey's leaders may be trying to realize a historic desire to dominate the region in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Neither Turkey nor the U.S. can boast of its record at defending the rights of the Kurdish people. No one asked the Poles whether they wanted to be devoured. Has anyone asked the Kurds?

But why would we want to hand over Kurds in Iraq to the tender mercies of a government which has persecuted its own Kurds for centuries? That's an easy one:

American diplomats and senior military commanders, led by President Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, are said to be encouraging the Kurdish leaders to accept the Turkish proposal. While Washington has strongly supported the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq over the past 12 years, it is eager to secure the permission of Turkey's leaders to use Turkey's bases for a possible attack on Iraq.

The proposed deal between the Americans and the Turks moved closer to fruition today when the Turkish Parliament voted to allow American engineers to begin preparing Turkish military bases for possible use by American troops.

No, the occupants of the White House do not read history. They have never read history. They're Americans and they live only now.

Adlai Stevenson's son puts the White House's "good cop" in his place in an OP-ED column today.

The administration and the media would like to sell Powell's appearance before the Security Council this week as an "Adlai Stevenson moment." His son reminds us that Stevenson's moment was an attempt to contain the Soviet Union and maintain peace, and it worked. The purpose of Powell's moment is war, and will almost certainly expand the resolve of and sympathy for terrorists. Yes it will work. There will be war and it will be much more than what he is asking for.

President Kennedy and others remembered the lessons learned from the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian archduke and his wife in 1914. Serbian nationalists behind the killings expected a reaction. But they did not expect to bring down the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Politically motivated terrorists are fanatics, not fools. Yet the empire delivered an ultimatum to Serbia, bringing on World War I and its own demise.

. . .

A contained Saddam Hussein would remain a pariah in the Middle East. A Saddam Hussein under attack would win sympathy on behalf of his long-suffering people and perhaps the support of terrorists inflamed by the mighty reach of the United States.

. . .

Sept. 11 was not all that different from Sarajevo at the turn of the century. The 19 men armed with box cutters did not expect to bring down all of America. Only America can do that.

"The community of free nations can show that it is strong and confident and determined to keep the peace." This is Bush speaking in Washington thursday, just after Colin Powell returned from New York and his mission to pressure the U.N. Security Council to approve offensive war.

But not to worry. Even if their strong-arm tactics fail, the junta says it's prepared to go to war with a coalition of "like-minded nations" [Reuter's phrase] without U.N. backing.

The Bush administration, facing a wary public at home about the prospect of war and uneasiness abroad, has support for war from Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and most eastern European nations as well as Australia. [All are nations currently governed by right-wing parties, but this is something the media neglects to mention, perhaps because to do so would help puncture our balloon and show that this war is politics after all.]

Thanks to Thomas Scott Tucker for introducing me to A.J. Muste.

"There is no way to peace—peace is the way"
and, in an ominous warning,
"The problem with war is the winner."

Ok, this is the one, this is the one! This is where we want to start to stop the war--and Bush! Meet on the steps of the New york Public Library Main Branch at 11:30, saturday the 15th.

From the site:

Calling all misfits, revelers, puppetistas and drummers, musicians, singers and loud hummers; samba bands, hungry marchers, jugglers, baton twirlers, fire eaters and artists of all stripes; ravers, beehives and vikings, billionaires for bush, gore or perma-war; radical cheerleaders, reclaimers of streets and critical massers; church ladies for choice, drag queens and kings, radical rockettes, perms for perma-war, church of stop bombers, missile chicks, babes for bombs, students for an undemocratic society, new kids on the blac bloc, those united for peace and justice and anybody and everybody who thinks that this war is absurd. [sorry, no mimes]
A festive and theatrical CARNIVAL BLOC FEEDER MARCH to the massive anti-war rally on February 15th. Organized by Mobilize New York and Reclaim the Streets.

On February 15th, hundreds of cities around the world will be hosting huge protests against the rush to war. This will be the largest global day of protest in history. In New York City alone, more than one hundred thousand people are expected. And we will be there, making it all look (and feel) fabulous.

From the steps of the NYPL we'll parade/party en masse to the United for the Peace and Justice rally, likely to be at the UN. For details on the massive rally we are meeting up with, see www.unitedforpeace.org.
Bring Mardi Gras Beads, costumes, instruments, drums, beats, boom boxes, dancing shoes, noisemakers of all kinds, bring posters and banners and puppets. Bring yourselves and friends. Be prepared to mock the Axis of Oil without mercy.
MoveOn.org reports today that the New York City Police Department still has not approved organizers' request for a permit. Yeah, I know.
The event in New York is scheduled for noon on the 15th, but the New York Police Department is making it difficult for the organizers to get a permit for a march to accompany the rally. We're certain it'll be worked out -- a legal complaint was filed this morning in the Federal District Court in Manhattan and we expect that a mutually acceptable agreement will be reached soon. We'll let you know as soon as we have a final word on the location to go to.

Once one sixth of Monty Python, but still a sage today, Terry Jones had a piece in London's Observer two sundays back. It's very good, but really no laughing matter.

And let's face it, Mr Bush's carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring about international peace and security. The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.

That's why I want to blow up Mr Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.

[thanks to George Carter]

Now we are even being told by the police state how we can remember the dead. It's bad enough that our putative secular authority can only speak in religious imagery, and only Christian imagery, when he can get away with it.

In heavily religious language, Mr. Bush sought to comfort the family members of the astronauts seated in the front row.

"Some explorers do not return, and the loss settles unfairly on a few," he said, as the wife and sons of Cmdr. William C. McCool, the shuttle's pilot, wept.

The sorrow, the president said, is lonely, but he added: "You are not alone. In time, you will find comfort and the grace to see you through. And in God's own time, we can pray that the day of your reunion will come."

Elsewhere in Texas, three days ago a pair of artists, Robert Ladislas Derr and Lynn Foglesong-Derr, who live in Nacogdoches, began a beautiful and totally secular performance intended to memorialize the seven astronauts lost in the Columbia disaster above their home.
Dressed in black to show mourning, Ms. Foglesong-Derr somberly outlined Mr. Derrs body with chalk within the site of one of the debris from the shuttle in the town center. Once the silhouette was drawn, the artists walked into the crowd and recited from Jean-Paul Sartres book Essays in Existentialism, speaking the words, When we say that man chooses his own self, we mean that every one of us does likewise; but we also mean by that that in making this choice he also chooses all men.

The artists chose this quote from the French philosophers book because it speaks to the effect of an individuals action upon the many. This tragedy involving seven astronauts emotionally touches humanity throughout the world.

Minutes into the performance, Texas state troopers stopped them and told them that flowers and flags were a more appropriate way to remember the deceased. The world is being made poorer by the ascendancy of small minds.

[Thanks to Douglas Kelly for the Nacogdoches story.]

Could the White House have done anything else to draw a more dramatic parallel between its policies and those of Nazi Germany? We have no doubts about at whose behest the image was removed.

NEW YORK.- The "Guernica" work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain. The reason for covering this work is that this is the place where diplomats make statements to the press and have this work as the background. The Picasso work features the horrors of war. On January 27 a large blue curtain was placed to cover the work.

Fred Eckhard, press secretary of the U.N. said: "It is an appropriate background for the cameras." He was questioned as to why the work had been covered.

A diplomat stated that it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N. John Negroponte, or Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings.

This work is a reproduction of the Guernica that was donated by Nelson A. Rockefeller to the U.N. in 1985.

The United Nations is the world body founded 60 years ago precisely to prevent such horrors as that visited upon Guernica in 1937. "Guernica" obviously belongs there, but in 2003 the U.S. is embarassed by Picasso's iconic image of murderous war, because we are preparing to visit our own horrors on innocent civilians.

The NYTimes now has the story as well.

At the entrance of the United Nations Security Council chamber, a baby blue curtain has been placed over a ruglike copy of "Guernica," Pablo Picasso's powerful antiwar painting. Picasso's depiction of the horrors of war, given by the estate of Nelson A. Rockefeller, who donated the money for the United Nations compound, hung at a site where it often provided a background to televised interviews with ambassadors and other officials. On Jan. 27, when Hans Blix, the chief United Nations chemical and biological weapons inspector, was to appear, microphones were repositioned to accommodate expanded press coverage, diplomats discussing peace were placed in front of Picasso's image. Speaking of the blue curtain and member flags that now decorate the area, Fred Eckhard, press secretary of the United Nations, said, "It is an appropriate background for the cameras."
Uh huh.

The hawks are afraid, as their continued fighting delay shows. They aren't afraid enough however, and in that lies their undoing, even if it may mean they will unleash a holocaust first. Washington is making a very big mistake. We already have a major antiwar movement in place, even before there's a war, and it's not going to be limited to just placards and speeches, especially if or when the fighting starts. We can bring down the regime in Washington. The only question is how long it will take.

"The difference between this antiwar protest movement and the Vietnam antiwar movement is that we have a huge grass-roots campaign before the war has even begun," she said. "Our volunteers on the subway are approached by strangers requesting leaflets."
Leslie Cagan is talking about the February 15 demonstrations in New York and elsewhere around the world:
"This may be our last chance to stop the war," she said. "If it starts, it will be much harder to end. If marches do not work, we will escalate. We will have to do things to disrupt the normal flow of life in this country. There will have to be more civil disobedience. If bombs are being dropped on other people in our name and with our tax dollars, we will do what we can to make sure these bombs do not get there."
Alright, whom am I kidding. We're all going to be locked up, and I wouldn't be surprised if it happens the day the bombs begin.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2003.

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