Politics: October 2004 Archives

Bush Salute.jpg
file photograph

Fascism, it's so US. Are there still any doubters out there?

The Bush campaign is now asking followers to swear allegiance to Bush, right hands extended. The pledge:

"I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
The principle established, the words can easily be rearranged in the future as needed.

[image from Chemtrails]


"Sooo . . . What do you wear to a civil war anyway?"

A week ago I wrote that I would probably post a list of progressive spaces which are encouraging visitors to hang out next Tuesday evening, on the [first?] day of our federal election agony.

I ended up contributing to a list which Barry assembled and has now posted on his own site. We haven't yet decided what we're going to do that night ourselves. The only thing I've done so far in the way of preparation is to get half way through a good apartment cleaning, the remainder to be completed tomorrow. I just knew I wouldn't feel like doing anything once the street fighting began.

Having also done tons of laundry this week, I'm now free to think about the balloon in the last box of the latest "get your war on."

[image from "get your war on"]

American Fine Arts [no website] opened a smashing new show, "Election," last night, but the legendary gallery founded by Colin de Land (and currently located in the last home of the equally fabulous gallery created by Pat Hearn) will close when this show is taken down November 18.

This is a very big loss, but I can't imagine a gallery scene without Daniel McDonald around and I don't expect we're going to lose sight of him.

Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln really enjoyed the show in the space Daniel has been managing full-time at least since Colin's tragic death last year (just three years after we had grieved for his wife, Pat) is fully worthy of its history. She adds that it's a must-see, and preferably before the momentous [civil?] war-time election going down just eleven days hence.

The show was organized by James Meyer. There's no gallery checklist yet, so the images I can show below have only a skeletal description.

Hans Haacke Star Gazing

Carl Andre and Melissa Kretschmer Welcome to Bushworld detail

Claire Pentecost Molecular Invasion detail of installation

John Waters Have Sex in a Voting Booth

Paul Chan Baghdad in No Particular Order still from video

This evening we stopped in at the opening reception for White Box's new group show, "Democracy is Fun?," the latest in a series of intense installations they've been mounting as a response to our republic's desperate cries for help. We stayed longer than we had originally intended, and here are some of the reasons why. I should point out that, as is usual on these pages, the images which appear in the post are those the camera seemed to like. They are definitely not the only interesting works in the show, which was curated by Michele Thursz and Defne Ayas.

The gallery will be open election night with screenings and performances, and I'm sure there will be cable for the actual returns. Many of us will be more comfortable with the crowd which is going to be drawn to 26th Street than we would almost anywhere else. [As we get closer to November 2, I may post a list of the spaces which will be welcoming people who would not really be comfortable in either candidate's headquarters.]

This work near the entrance went straight to the core of America's funny democracy:
Hug and Magnan Escape (2004) duraflex printed mounted on aluminum, installation view

These political footballs were the kinetic sculptures we found rolling underfoot throughout the gallery space; they would occasionally meet a smartly placed toe which launched the scary Bush heads across the floor:
Kendell Geers Kicking Against the Pricks (2004) 11 political latex masks, footballs, detail of installation view

Michael Anderson had eight collages made up of reconstructed "posters" along the west wall:
Michael Anderson Empire Strikes Back (2004) street posters from NYC 32" x 24" detail

Hug and Magnan again - just because it says it so well and looks so good doing it:
Hug and Magnan God Bless America flashe on found object, installation view

Innocent until proven guilty? Not anymore. One of the most basic principals of our law has been trashed regularly and systematically by our courts since September 11th. While what is happening to four peace activists here in New York at this moment may not be the most egregious examples of a justice system turned upside down and striking out at people all around the world, it's no small thing for the victims themselves and for the broad and fundamental evil of the judicial precedent it establishes.

Sixteen people were arrested in Manhatan on March 26, 2003, for (intentionally) tying up rush hour Midtown traffic in a protest against the murder of American peace activist Rachel Corrie by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip, as well as the U.S. attack on Iraq. They were all convicted on March 22 this year on the outrageous, Orwellian charge, "obstructing governmental administration."

Twelve of the codefendents have been sentenced to community service and fines. Four have not been sentenced yet, because the Manhattan District Attorney had a judge unseal their older records. The D.A. then cited their previous demonstration arrests, most of which resulted in all charges being dismissed, as a reason for the judge to sentence them to an (unspecified) jail term (under the law the judge can sentence each of the four to anything from 0 to 365 days in jail). The twelve codefendants who were earlier given sentences far less severe did not have their records unsealed.

The four remaining now face posssible jail time for alleged acts in the past which were never proven in a court of law.

Every citizen, whether active in political demonstrations or just unfortunate to be arrested for any offense, however minor, and including misdemeaners, must be made to understand that there is no longer any assumption of innocence in the American courts. If you have appeared before a judge at any time in the past, not been tried but rather had your case dismissed and its record "sealed," the fact that you had been in that court may be used against you years later in order to determine your sentencing for a conviction totally unrelated to the previous offense.

The D.A. and the judge merely have to be really mad at you, and they don't have to tell anyone why.

The corollary to this incredible development has to be that from now on no one will be able to afford to accept a "dismissal" of his or her offences, regardless of the practical attractions of such a resolution, but must instead pursue every charge all the way through the courts. Of course neither the individual nor the judiciary is actually going to be able to live with that burden; something will have to give - or explode.

Like so much else that falls under the rubric, "everything has changed since 9/11," the politicization of our courts is swiftly contributing to the destruction of the society we think we are defending.

The four M26 defendents (the name refers to March 26, the date of the action for which they were arrested) who still await their fate have already gone through two appeals, and both have been rejected. The outcome of a third appeal will not be known prior to November 18, the scheduled date of their sentencing.

The range of possible outcomes runs from the best-case scenario - fines and community service, despite their "records" of dismissed charges - to the worst case scenario - taken directly from the courtroom to Rikers Island Penitentiary.

They've put out an appeal for people to be with them in the courtroom on the morning of the sentencing, since it's vitally important to show the judge that they have community support. And of course some of the media will be there.

The people who await the disposition of their cases have one more request to make of their supporters, and it's characteristically thoughtful and generous. This is Steve Quester:

AP4 will see many cases that day, not just ours. Please come at 9 am so you can get a seat in the courtroom before it fills up. And please keep in mind that there will be many defendants and their families and friends present. Unlike the four of us, few if any of those defendants will be White. Unlike the four of us, none of those defendants will benefit from an outpouring of community support. If you are able to stay for some of the cases that follow ours, please do. I cringe at the thought of an exodus of hundreds of mostly White people from the courtroom as soon as we're sentenced.

THE LOGISTICS: Go to 100 Centre Street, which you can locate here. They will be on the 4th floor, in Arraignment Part (AP) 4. The nearest subways are the J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z, and 6 trains to Canal Street. You can also take the 4 or 5 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, or the B or D to Grand Street. The closest stop on the A, C, and E trains is Canal Street; Franklin Street on the 1 train, and Chambers Street on the 2 or 3.

Check www.m26.org in the days leading up to the sentencing, to learn about any (unlikely) possibility of a further delay in sentencing.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe Design Proposed for the Hall of Representatives, U.S., Section from North to South (1815) ink and watercolor on paper

For weeks now Barry and I have both been dismayed by the strange candidacy which Peter Hort has mounted for Representative of our local Congressional district.

I believe what is happening only shows that even supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers are naive when it comes to politics, or that money can persuade otherwise good people to act quite badly. Both explanations are pretty disturbing, but each is still better than some of the other possibilities.

For his reading of the subject, including both background and foreground, see Barry's post of last night which links to his previous entries, to Hort's own site and a number of other relevant sources.

[image of the old House chamber from Library of Congress]

from the front of the bus, 9th Avenue in the forties, on a Saturday afternoon (these vehicles aren't moving)

We live in Manhattan. We're supposed to be able to get around the city without each of us piloting two or three tons of private metal, but it's getting harder and harder to assume the availability of the public transportation which makes this city possible.

Barry and I had decided early this afternoon that we should have no trouble running up to 57th Street to see two gallery shows which close today and then heading back in time to look into a number of Chelsea locations before their doors were locked at 6 pm. But we hadn't bargained on the virtual disappearance of both subway and bus service, and in the end we were reminded that Manhattan's transportation failings are far greater scale than that represented by a badly-organized and underfunded MTA.

When we discovered (only after descending the stairs into the station) that there were no uptown trains running from our corner, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, all weekend, we decided to risk a cab and potential Midtown congestion. There were no complications once we settled into our roomy Toyota van, but less than an hour later the transportation mishaps started to pile on top of each other.

We made the mistake of trying to rely on the subway in order to get back to Chelsea. Our train ground to a halt in the staition just one stop south of 59th Street, where we had boarded it. The repeated announcements about a short delay were eventually replaced by one saying that there was a train broken down ahead of us and there was no way of knowing how long we would be held in the station. We abandoned our car and walked a long block to the 9th Avenue bus, thinking that passing only a couple of dozen numbered streets would be a quick hop, since there was so little traffic in sight. Traffic suddenly appeared out of nowhere and we ended up frozen virtually immobile by the SUV's heading back to New Jersey through the Lincoln Tubes (see the picture above).

Well over an hour after leaving 57th Street we finally emerged back on 23rd Street. We had made the trip (a total of about a mile and three quarters) at the dizzying pace of 1.5 miles per hour. I have to remind myself that all this was happening on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The subway had failed us once again (this is not uncommon); surface transportation was ridiculous (even in the best of circumstances we have to live with primitive bus designs, passengers exiting through the front, or entry, doors, clumsy fare-collection machinery and the total absence of dedicated bus lanes). In addition, every intersection box was blocked by cross traffic, meaning that the bus had to wait through two signal changes even after it reached the stripe at the cross street (there were no traffic police in place anywhere along our route).

I saw one fire truck in the middle of the almost chaotic scene; fortunately those guys were not on an emergency call this time, but had the circumstance been otherwise . . . .

All forms of transportation on at least the west side of Manhattan, with theoretically the most mobile population in the nation, had been rendered impossible. And still our elected and appointed officials persist in believing that the job of municipal transportation oversight is to get more cars to move still faster into and through the streets of a city already suffering from an impossible burden of private car ownership.

Oh yeah, I just reminded myself that all of this traffic was created even without the impact of the insane proposal for a West Side stadium.

This week the MTA announced liklihood of really major cutbacks in service, which will leave room for still more cars. Great planning.

Facing years of spiraling deficits, the MTA is proposing to eliminate 14 percent of its bus lines as part of a severe cost-saving package that would come on top of a fare hike and more than 160 subway token booth closings.

The bus route closures, slated for 2006, would hit all five boroughs and include some lines that follow major arteries in Manhattan.

The powerful documentary, "Arna's Children," is now at the Quad Cinema here in Manhattan. I'd be much more excited if it were playing in every town in the U.S., but unfortunately it's not going to happen. If you want to know why, see what I wrote last May.

I just noticed that of the four films currently being shown at the Quad, Barry and I have actually seen three. This is pretty amazing, since the two of us rarely get around to slipping into a movie theatre in the crush of so many seductive live (therefore more time-sensitive) performance offerings. Like "Arna's Children," the other two films would not be described as directed toward mainstream audiences (whatever that means), but I can recommend both "The Child I Never Was" and, most enthusiastically, Bruce LaBruce's "Raspberry Reich."

If these films have anything in common, it's the ability of each to re-arrange minds which might have thought everything was already nicely in place.

ACT UP's on a roll lately! Members have been working very hard - and very cleverly. The media has had to salute their brilliant zaps, even describing the issues for a change, but this time the attention came without a single clenched fist being raised in anger. Well, yes, documentation of AIDS issues wasn't actually part of the coverage this time, but the unexpected homage still represented great exposure.

Saturday Night Live returned for the Fall season three nights ago* introducing the show with a skit which satirized the first presidential debate and its format. Chris Parnell, impersonating the moderator Jim Lehrer, after explaining the order of the candidates' exchange, continued his instruction:

Following Senator Kerry's rebuttal, there will be a brief demonstration by members of ACT UP.
The studio audience roared, and Barry and I almost fell off the couch.

* I haven't tried to post anything until now because, while we had watched the recorded program on Sunday night, we've been without a decent internet connection since Monday morning. Time Warner came for a repair of our TV cable service yesterday. They failed to fix the problem, but did manage to knock out the cable modem. If we're lucky it will be fixed later today.

Working with a wireless network borrowed from a friend at some remove in our building, I was fortunate to be able to put up this story, but I won't attempt anything right now which has an image.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from October 2004.

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