Politics: April 2007 Archives

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A.R.T. (Activist Response Team) lowers banners inside the Hart Senate Office Building April 26


I was delighted, one day after my French Revolution post, to come across this story. It needs to be circulated to a much wider audience.

In Washington today it may actually be the spring of 1789.

For more, see the citizens at A28 and for a live, recorded sound record of the action, hear guerilla radio via indymedia.


[image, via bloggy, from an email originally sent to newsgrist]

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I'm reading a history of the French Revolution, while still following the news of today, including headlines like this. Sometimes one could wish that history really does repeat itself.


[image from CUNY]


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stills captured from video on NYCindymedia site


On Thursday I wrote about a demonstration in which I had participated (put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA], Assemble for Rights NYC, and other groups and individuals), which was directed against Council Speaker Quinn's support of newly-adopted NYPD regulations restricting the right of assembly. I included in that entry a dozen or so still pictures I had taken.

They weren't enough to tell me about the full measure and shape of the violence I witnessed that afternoon. Last night I saw this footage of the Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective documenting the most violent images of Police aggression I've witnessed in almost twenty years of street activism.

Go to this NYC indymedia page and click onto the link under the heading, "Video Footage showing aggressive arrests by NYPD during the peacefull parade". Note that the video is composed of segments from several cameras, so there is more than a single presentation of some scenes.

It was already clear to anyone who hasn't tried to avoid thinking about the quality of civic life in New York that this city's police ranks and leadership are both out of control and a physical and Constitutional threat to its citizens, and not just those seen by "the finest" as "the other", so this footage should not come as a revelation to any of us. But the problem neither begins nor ends with the failures of the uniforms on the street. Our appointed and elected representatives and municipal executives, far from fulfilling their responsibility to police the police, continue to aid and abet their crimes and outrages. Officials are content with a ritual mourning of the dead and arranging photo opportunities with the survivors, visiting the homes and attending the funerals of their prey - while paying tens of millions of dollars of our public treasury in court awards to the growing number of victims of police and government brutality.

Chief of Police Kelly is dead wrong about his so-called "parade rules", the Mayor Bloomberg knows it and the best I can say about the Speaker of the City Council on this issue (she is also my local representative) is that Chris Quinn appears to have a tin ear on First Amendment issues. Our rights and freedoms to speak and assemble are not subject to political negotiation, the convenience of our law enforcement officials (or their macho "control" neuroses), the swift traffic (and free street storage) of private automobiles, or our politicians' ambitions for higher office.

For a long time I lulled myself into thinking I could continue to distinguish between what has been happening in the country at large and what is going down here in the land I call home, but today I realize I can only be thankful that New York doesn't have a foreign policy and weapons of mass destruction.


[images from Glass Bead Collective and Time's Up! Video Collective via NYCindymedia]

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I survived this afternoon's "Parade Without a Permit" more or less unscathed, although I was pushed to the ground while photographing the police exercising their "control" of our right to free speech.

At the start of the parade in City Hall Park there were, by Norm Siegel's semi-official count, 54 demonstrators (plus a large contingent of members of the alternative media, and various support people and legal observers), making the assemblage an official "un-permitted parade" according to new NYPD rules, which allow only up to 49 people if no police permit has been granted.

At no time was there a crime in progress; we presented no threat to anyone. There was not even a hint of a misdemeanor, yet the Department, our servants, not content with a melodramatic presence made up of officers and inspectors, many in plainclothes, a scooter contingent and several police vans, decided to do some pushing around.

The pushing began with repeated orders, rude shouts in fact, to keep our feet on the sidewalk at all times, even when it was narrowed or blocked by subway entrances and construction sheds. In the end it appeared to be problems with the obstruction and tunnel darkness of a large shed on the west side of Church Street, complicated by the many bags of debris stacked underneath, which elevated the pushing to the physical level. The police seemed to be unhappy with the speed with which we were clearing the street for the important people who use cars.

I assume that any attempt to point out to the officers that their own combined body mass and the bulk of their own vehicles added up to a much bigger traffic obstruction than did the presence of our little band would have fallen on deaf ears.

One verbal exchange led to another, and then the pushing began (from them on us) without any further warning. Before I could get away from the center of the melee I found myself on the pavement. I snapped a few (not very interesting) pictures from that dramatic vantage point and when I scrambled back to my feet I saw that at least two people had been taken into the middle of the street where they were on the ground. Surrounded by their banners, flags and leaflets, they were handcuffed and carried away.

The struggle for New York City's recognition of the First Amendment will certainly continue, but for tonight we have these beautiful battle ribbons:


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related sites:

The Radical Homosexual Agenda

Assemble for Rights NYC

NYC indymedia

Transportation Alternatives

TIME'S UP!

Association of the Bar of the City of New York

Critical Mass

Five Borough Bicycle Club


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detail of a temporary memorial to the 72 victims of Cubana de Aviación flight 455, erected outside the courthouse in El Paso in 2005


ADDENDUM: [April 21] "A Terrorist Goes Free"


Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, wanted in Cuba and Venezuela [but not in the United States] for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people was released on bail in New Mexico today. He has been held in the U.S. on immigration charges since 1975 and will theoretically be in El Paso for a trial which is scheduled to finally begin May 11.

Posada Carriles was trained by the CIA and has ties to the Bush family.


[image from narcosphere]

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"keeping control" (wire and flesh, inside a holding pen during the 2004 RNC)


No, Chris, in America the police are not supposed to write the laws and "control" demonstrations.

Yesterday morning on the Brian Lehrer show NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn responded to a question from the host about her support of new NYPD regulations on "parade permitting". The regulations dramatically restrict the public's Constitutional rights of speech and assembly.

The NYPD will now require a permit for any public gathering, or "parade", of 50 people or more. Section 1A of the city ruling defines a parade as "any march, motorcade, caravan, promenade, foot, or bicycle race, or similar event of any kind, procession or race which consists of a recognizable group of 50 or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles, or other devices move by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway."

On the Lehrer show Quinn stated emphatically that she believes the new regulations are "fair and appropriate" and "allow people to express their First Amendment rights", but it is clear to anyone concerned with exercising these rights that the police get to decide how and when and with whom they may do it.

I was shocked to hear the Speaker's concluding expression of support for our uniformed enforcers: She stated that the police must have the ability to "keep control of situations" [my emphasis].

I've known Quinn for many years and I have spoken and written highly of her in the past, and I expect to be able to do so in the future, but it is clear to me that on this extremely important issue Quinn is just wrong. She really has "turned her back on civil rights", in the words of The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA], the organizers of a demonstration at City Hall tomorrow afternoon at 4 o'clock.

Of course this is not about queers alone; political activists and alternative transportation advocates have been impacted by NYC police attitudes in the most dramatic manner in recent years, but the issue belongs to everyone who wishes to breathe free. The Council Speaker is an out lesbian with a background of community oranization and a family history of activism who has participated in demonstrations herself; she should know better.

The demonstration is certain to include more than 50 people. Not surprisingly, there will be no permit.

Almost certainly the most important event in New York this week, the "Parade Without a Permit", will take place at City Hall tomorrow, Thursday, at 4 pm.


[images from indymedia, by anonymous, and included in my September 3, 2004 entry]

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defense, like charity, used to begin at home


We might have enjoyed a golden age, but instead we have been condemned by small, stupid, and evil minds to bear the burden of a new, unspecific [hot and] cold war all over the world.

When the soviet regimes collapsed, as this excellent Craig S. Smith report in today's NYTimes sadly reminds us, we fumbled an extraordinary opportunity of a kind and on a scale never before offered to a civilization.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, as Soviet troops withdrew from Eastern Europe and America began to talk about closing bases in Germany, Europe looked as if it might become the big, peaceful, postmodern federation that European Union architects had long dreamed of: a humanist club where conflicts at home and abroad would be resolved by talking everything to death instead of killing.

Then the Balkans blew up and the United States military stepped in to stop a war that Europe seemed incapable of facing. That frustrated Russia, which supported Serbia in the war, but Russia could not offer much help because it was still impotent and staggering from the collapse of its Soviet empire.

Now Russia is rich with oil and gas and its military spending is soaring.

I have to add that the U.S. missed the even larger possibility fifteen years ago of helping all the people of the Russian federation to become full partners in that "humanist club" and to share in the security, prosperity and culture of a flourishing and vibrant civilization. It could have created a system which would offer to the greater world community a selfless beneficence and opportunities for indigenous development on a scale unimagined and certainly unprecedented. The most enlightened expectation and happiest consequence would have been seeing the character of the dominant culture itself peacefully re-shaped by the rich diversity of the peoples of a thriving globe.

Instead, we got George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush. We also got the incompetence and malignancy of Russian leadership, too many small-minded men and women in all European governments, some incredibly inept, even vile, leaders in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and powerless or indifferent populations almost everywhere. But it was up to America to lose the game.

And we did it big.

So far we've avoided nuclear annihilation, but we got a rogue Russia and a rogue U.S., a fake "war on terror", a religious war, a new economic imperialism battling its opponents all over the world, a renewed arms race and a "missile shield" (along with their truly prohibitive costs which empty every nation's social treasury), a cultural war, and finally, and almost certainly most fatally for us all, the predicted death of the planet itself, all remedies neglected or spurned because of the distractions of our other fratricidal frailties.

The Times article is ostensively about a specific U.S. program, but the first paragraphs tell us as much about what I've called "small, stupid, and evil minds" as it does about this administration's European "missile defense shield" program.

Much of Europe is arguing over a Washington proposal to plant in Poland fewer than a dozen antimissile missiles that might not work, to guard against an Iranian threat that may not exist.

The main party in Poland’s governing coalition is inclined to accept the deal, and the country’s president, Lech Kaczynski, known in Europe for his fierce conservatism and nationalist talk, has been invited to the White House in July to talk things over with President Bush.

The Czech Republic’s fragile government coalition, meanwhile, has agreed to negotiate placement of high-powered American tracking radar on its soil despite widespread local opposition. The radar, now in the Marshall Islands, would help guide the antimissile missiles from Poland to hit and destroy their fast-moving targets in outer space.

The European missile shield would be part of an integrated system that is already taking shape in California and Alaska, where the United States expects to deploy 30 long-range interceptors to guard against missile attack by the end of 2008.

Washington says the Eastern European system could act in time to protect most of Europe and all of the United States and even much of Russia from a nuclear attack by Iran, that is, if Iran ever developed or obtained nuclear weapons and rockets with a range long enough to reach those targets, as well as a desire to fire them. They don’t have those armaments now, but they might by 2015, the Bush administration says.

But the entire system is in fact a big, very costly joke.
The 10 interceptor missiles that Washington is proposing to put in Poland could hardly stop Russia’s hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the event of all-out war.

The American antimissile missiles will be placed too close to Russia to be of use against ICBMs fired from anywhere west of the Ural Mountains. If they work, though, the antimissile missiles in Alaska and California could stop a Russian ICBM fired in America’s direction from east of the Urals. The fact is that in tests the antimissile missiles don’t work much of the time, and when they do it is under controlled circumstances that are far from typical in an actual attack.

Is insanity or calculation? For over six years, on almost everything they've done, the Bushies have absolutely confounded my ability to decide.


[image of detail from early 17th-century Flemish map of Ostend defense ramparts from search.com]

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now almost anyone can qualify for this screen test


It's not the first story like this we've heard, it's not the most disturbing, and unfortunately it won't be the last, but it's worth a read. It's an account of one young man's personal and repeated experience of our nation's obsession with terror and it comes from a Canadian artist whose work Barry and I both know appreciate and who is with a New York gallery whose programs and directors we both respect and love.

The story was sent to me in response to the first of my two recent posts about the eye and face-scanning databasing program run by our troops in Iraq.

[The writer had written that he did not want it published, but as it turns out not for any reason I would have imagined. I asked him if I might have his permission to publish it anonymously. He answered yes, but added that the reason he would like his name withheld was not the fear of political consequences, but rather, "i don't really think that artists should enter the dialogue with people who write about art." I am printing his words here in their entirety and without editing the text I received, except to eliminate information which might identify the author.]

i live in [Canada], and came to NY for the armory a few months ago. i had
brought some watercolours with me that i hadn't finished in time to ship to
the gallery. i had done this MANY times before when coming to the US. as
you can imagine from my name, i'm just a WASP male, but i have a rather
mujahadeenish beard, grown not for fashion, but years ago, to hide a total
lack of chin. anyway. i had some watercolours tucked into a magazine in my
carry on. i declared them on the customs form. after going through the US
customs on the canadian side, i was asked to go into a secondary screening
room. this has happened to me many times before also, i am always getting
'randomly' searched, which i think might have to do with coming from
[a town with a reputation for drug use]. however this time, i
was told that bringing paintings into the country was illegal, i explained
that i had done it many times before with no problem, they told me that was
the fault of the customs agents who were derelict in their duty by allowing
such a transgression of the law . i explained that selling my work is my
only income, and that i wouldn't do it again etc etc. long story short, i
have gone my entire life without being fingerprinted, i have never broken
the law, gotten a ticket. however after i was told that i would be able to
bring my work to NY, this time, but NEVER again, and if i tried it again, i
would be in real trouble, i was subject to retinal eye scans, i had all of
my thumb and fingerprints scanned, and a biometric photograph of my face
taken. so now i am also one of the canadians in the homeland security file.
unlike people like mahar arar who was sent to syria for torture, or omar
khadar who is languishing in cuba, arrested as a 15 year old for throwing a
grenade at a soldier in iraq, i hopefully won't be extraodinarily
renditioned, unless they discover a secret scottish-irish mujahadeen. but,
i have a solo show in NY in september, i am less and less inclined to visit
the US. this is my fifth trip in a row where i was randomly singled out.
the first time i was subject to documentation. most of my friends in canada
are of pakistani or indian descent. i grew up with them in toronto. canada
is a multicultural place, save quebec, not a melting pot. and it really
opened my eyes to what my friends must have to deal with. so i thought this
story might be interesting to you. i'm starting to think i might pull a
marlon brando and start sending the other forgotten victims of american
imperialism to my openings for me, the sacheen littlefeathers of my first
nations neighbours . . . .


[image from the Department of Defense {they're proud of this stuff}, via electroniciraq]

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We'll just Need to Scan Your Eyes for Our Files
Imad Salman Ichleef, 37, was questioned yesterday by American soldiers about insurgent activity in his neighborhood of Ghazaliya in baghdad. Using a biometric recording device, one of the soldiers scanned Mr. Ichleef's retinas, collected his fingerprints and photographed his face. The interview was part of a strategy to put Iraqi males into a database. Mr. Ichleef's family waited patiently so they could get back to their lunch.
[the full NYTimes caption to the single photo printed by the paper on April 7]


Because I had been unable to find his image on the NYTimes website or anywhere else, after doing a post about it yesterday I emailed Ashley Gilbertson asking if he could help me find and link to one.

Today I received a generous reply. He began with: "I'm out in the badlands right now so can't talk." He attached these four awesome images to an email which was probably sent from Iraq.

Wow.

He wrote that he had no idea which photograph the paper had used [it was the third, and it appeared in black and white].

Thanks, Ash.

A memoir of Gilbertson's experience in Iraq, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War", is being published by the University of Chicago Press and is due for release November 1.


[images from Ashley Gilbertson, with my thanks to the NYTimes for its custom]

FOLLOW-UP: see this post for the missing image, and more


I can't find it anywhere on the NYTimes site or through Google News, but our print edition of the paper this morning carries an extremely important photograph on page A6 by Ashley Gilbertson. The image is of three heavily-armed and armored American soldiers interrogating an Iraqi man who is wearing casual pants and a t-shirt sitting in his own home while his family stands in the background. Significantly, the family's large floor covering has been folded back and away from the area occupied by the four men.

The full caption reads:

We'll just Need to Scan Your Eyes for Our Files
Imad Salman Ichleef, 37, was questioned yesterday by American soldiers about insurgent activity in his neighborhood of Ghazaliya in baghdad. Using a biometric recording device, one of the soldiers scanned Mr. Ichleef's retinas, collected his fingerprints and photographed his face. The interview was part of a strategy to put Iraqi males into a database [my italics]. Mr. Ichleef's family waited patiently so they could get back to their lunch.
There is no related article. I agree with Barry's comment that this image and this program would be unlikely to be buried on an inside page (on a Saturday yet) in the Arab media.

Actually, neither the technology nor the increasingly-widespread U.S. goverernment practice is news, as the 18-month-old post on the site where I found the January 2005 image below reminds us. But rather once again it's a picture that makes the impression, in this case it's the picture I haven't yet been able to locate on line.


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Is this the new face of occupation? [caption from bagnewsnotes]


[image from bagnewsnotes]

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Flanked by two prison officials, Josh Wolf (center) pushes a cart full of his belongings (mostly books and letters) outside the gates of the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin. Behind him is David Greene, one of his attorneys. Chronicle photo by Michael Maloney


UPDATE: Since this was posted a Wikipedia entry has been created for Josh Wolf; and Wolf himself has a blog


Blogger journalist Josh Wolf was freed yesterday.

But I'm not entirely sure what happened.

Wolf was in prison for refusing to comply with a federal subpoena. He was released from a California prison on Tuesday in what is described as a compromise struck with federal prosecutors. The court has the videotapes it wanted, but Wolf will not have to testify about the protest he documented or identify people visible in his reporter's documents. The entire tape coverage has now been made visible on his blog, to ensure that anyone in the world might see what the police will see.

Wolf had said all along that he was willing to show to the judge and to the US Attorney video the footage which the grand jury had asked for, but this is where it gets fuzzy for me: I had thought that up until now he was not willing to hand over physical custody of the tapes themselves (possibly explaining this month's "compromise"). The San Francisco Chronicle however reports that yesterday Wolf said that he offered to turn over his videos last November on the condition that he be excused from testifying, and prosecutors had turned him down.

In a press conference immediately following his release after more than seven months of incarceration he said that he absolutely will not testify about the protest he covered back in July 2005 (the subject of the federal case), even if ordered once again to do so, and that if he were unable to get a new subpoena removed, he would be prepared to return to prison to defend his Constitutional rights as a journalist.

He was asked by one reporter, why is this whole thing important? He answered that It's greatest importance lies in reinforcing the principle that journalists simply must not act as investigators for the government.

This is a large excerpt from a statement on Wolf's own site:

When I was subpoenaed in February of last year, I was not only ordered to provide my unedited footage, but to also submit to testimony and examination before the secretive grand jury. Although I feel that my unpublished material should be shielded from government demands, it was the testimony which I found to be the more egregious assault on my right and ethics as both a journalist and a citizen.

As there was nothing of a sensitive or confidential nature on my video outtakes, I had no reason to withhold their publication once I had exhausted all my legal appeals. When that point arrived I had already spent three months behind bars. I was advised by my legal team that publishing the video would not lead to my release; instead it would indicate to the court that my imprisonment was having a coercive effect even though it was not.

This hypothesis was verified when one of my attorney's inquired whether the Assistant US Attorney would accept the footage in lieu of my testimony, he was told that the video alone would not suffice and that the US Attorney would accept nothing less than my full compliance with the demands of the subpoena. Things change.

When the judge came to realize the support for my cause was growing and that I was unlikely to waver anytime soon, he ordered both parties to meet with a magistrate judge in the hopes we could reach a solution amenable to everyone. After two rather strenuous sessions of mediation, we at last came to an agreement that not only leaves my ethics intact but actively serves the role of a free press in our so-called free society.


[image and caption from SFGate]

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Hunter Reynolds Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007 [detail of installation]


Spinning, spinning, spinning.

Hunter Reynolds's elegant installation, "Patina du Prey's Memorial Dress: 1993 to 2007", is currently installed in one of the galleries of Artists Space. The performer/artist/activist's elegant, couture, strapless ball gown hangs from a torso mannequin in the SoHo gallery, not-so-slowly spinning on its axis (as it did when so memorably inhabited in the past by its creator himself), accompanied by an ambient piece of music composed for and contributed to the installation by the contemporary composer Edmund Campion.

This is not just another cold tally of the epidemic, but rather a very human, a very personal collection of thousands of memorials, and a rich artistic gesture as well: The names on the dress were initially drawn from the list of names on the AIDS quilt as it existed in 1993, so it embodied the memories of friends and family members. Since then, wherever the dress has appeared the artist has invited visitors to write additional names, also of people lost to the disease and remembered by friends and family members, in an accompanying ledger book.

Is the supply of names running down? No. While the death rate for this epidemic may have slowed or declined in industrial nations during the last ten or fifteen years, at least within the population segments hit first and hit the hardest, the toll for the planet as a whole has skyrocketed. More significant to the specific groups which have seen his installation, when Reynolds's project was begun in 1993 the friends or families of people with AIDS were far less likely to admit they were friends or families of people with AIDS; they were very unlikely to come forward with names to be added to a memorial of any kind. Reynolds confirmed to me on Friday that even in the American and European cities visited by the Memorial Dress, cities where life-sustaining HIV drugs are most generally available, the frequency of the ledger entries continues unchanged. It seems the survivors of a plague whose casualties themselves the world branded odious from the start are still coming out of the closet today.

What can be seen at the gallery this month is the second (1996) realization of Patina du Prey's mangown. The first was the 1963 dress; the current version is constructed of a rich dark (faux-black?) silk fabric covering a fitted bodice and crinoline skirt printed in gold to include thousands of additional names added during the travels of the original. The artist hopes to create a third dress, which will incorporate the four to five thousand new names which have been added to the books in recent years.

This image is of a detail of one page from one of those books:


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PANEL AND PARTY

On Tueday, April 10, between 6:30 and 8 pm at the Artists Space gallery on 38 Greene Street in SoHo, Visual Aids and Artists Space will co-host a panel discussion, "Diamonds and Pearls: Remembrances and Recent Thinking on the Memorial Dress", with Hunter Reynolds, Lia Gangitano, Alexander Gray and Simon Watson, moderated by Benjamin Weil and Amy Sadao.

Following the panel, from 8 until 9, guests are invited to party with Patina du Prey; there will be food and drink. [suggested donation: $5-7].

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from April 2007.

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