August 2002 Archives

A pretty real piece, "Victims of Realtime...on the bizarre memorialization of 911," currently appears on the first page of the refreshingly-irreverent site, HOLY FUCKING SHIT DAY.

I posted my own comment there, but I'm including it below as well, to bring more forward my feelings about what's planned for next week in New York and elsewhere in the country. We're out of here.

We'll be in Europe most of September, where I expect to appreciate people acting like grown-ups about this thing, allowing us to do the same.

Just serendipity. We had planned the trip last spring, without even thinking about what we would be missing at home here in New York. It just hadn't occurred to me that the anniversary would end up looking like such a monster.

What is being planned is not a memorial. It's an obsessive orgy of victimhood. I know of history, and it is my passion. It is not history we are recording, but a self-serving and dangerous myth which will forever conceal the truth which we absolutely need in order to move forward.

Tony Blair says that the world cannot stand by while Iraq is in "flagrant breach" of United Nations resolutions.

"Doing nothing about Iraq's breach of these UN resolutions is not an option.

"That's the only decision that's been taken so far. What we do about that is an open question."

If the issue is that of the violation of UN resolutions, we should have attacked Israel and removed the current regime a long time ago.

Obviously the real issue is not the one presented to us, by London or Washington.

We're still waiting them to stop lying.

It is not necessary to have illusions about the liberality of the Palestinian Authority, or Palestinian society as a whole in order to oppose what is being done to the Palestinian people by Israel, a government and a society fundamentally so much more liberal. Still, some people are clearly impacted far more than others by the violence of a society--any society.

The agony of gay Palestinians is a part of the current horror in the middle east, but it did not begin in 1948, nor even with the Occupation or the Intifada, and it won't end when the fighting ends.

With bombs once again exploding all over Israel, and the Palestinian territories under seemingly permanent curfew, the woes of Palestinian homosexuals haven't exactly grabbed international attention. But after spending two days with gay Palestinian refugees in Israel, I began to wonder why the liberal world has never taken interest in their plight.

Perhaps it's because that might mean acknowledging that the pathology of the nascent Palestinian polity extends well beyond Yasir Arafat and won't be uprooted by one free election. Indeed, the torment of gays is very nearly official Palestinian policy. "The persecution of gays in the Palestinian Authority [P.A.] doesn't just come from the families or the Islamic groups but from the P.A. itself," says Shaul Ganon of the Tel Aviv-based Agudah-Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender in Israel. "The P.A.'s usual excuse for persecuting gays is to label them collaborators--though I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals." Since the intifada, Ganon tells me, Palestinian police have increasingly enforced Islamic law: "It's now impossible to be an open gay in the P.A."

[Descriptions of what should be unspeakable tortures follow in the text.]

Life is only marginally better as a refugee in Israel, subsisting on the margins.
[In Tel Aviv, a group of teenage prostitutes,] refugees from the West Bank, live in an abandoned building. They tell me that sometimes a client will offer them a meal and a shower instead of payment; sometimes a client will simply refuse to pay in any form, taunting them to complain to police. And sometimes police will beat them before releasing them back to the streets.

A 17-year-old refugee from Nablus named Salah (a pseudonym), who spent months in a P.A. prison where interrogators cut him with glass and poured toilet cleaner into his wounds, tells Ganon that he has been stopped by Israeli police no fewer than four times that day. He recites the names of the different police units who stopped him by their acronyms. "Try not to do anything stupid," Ganon says.

"I've tried to kill myself six times already," says Salah. "Each time the ambulance came too quickly. But now I think I know how to do it. Next time, with God's help, it will work before the ambulance comes."

More on the American car vs. public transit thing.

The rest of the world is becoming more and more aware of our special cult and addiction, and they clearly aren't going to be indifferent to its planetary impact going forward.

... Beaufort county [South Carolin] planners have been meeting to discuss a regional transportation system.

The [county's daily] paper explains what this is - it would link the county to outlying areas including the nearby city of Savannah, Georgia and the holiday resort of Hilton Head.

People wouldn't have to use their cars. But outraged residents want to use their cars - and they fear the kind of people who use public transport just would not fit in these parts.

"We're not that kind of community", one of them is quoted as saying - and that is the rub.

America is not that kind of community. It is a car-driving society - not in an easy going, take-it-or-leave-it "oh we'll try something else" sense, but in a profound, almost religious way.

The right to drive is a deeply valued blessing - and one that will not be given up lightly, in fact will not be given up at all.

The BBC correspondent realizes that we worship our own gods here.
In the hotel in Mobile I saw on American television a mention of the development summit and a discussion about the plight of the Maldives - that gorgeous island archipelago which we are told is threatened with inundation as sea levels rise.

When I say a discussion - well it wasn't quite that - by the time they had worked out where they were and marvelled at how small they were there was no time to talk about saving the islands.

Do Americans know that the rest of the world is ganging up on them again and accusing them of polluting the planet? - yes vaguely.

Do they care? Not much.


Disgusting, but really no surprise. We got the toady and the fascist to forgive future American war crimes.

I've finally realized where I've been for almost the last two years. I'm in the midst of a really stupid comic book, but it's not made of paper, and it's not comic, and it's not ending!

If you still have to be convinced you're in it with me, but only if you can stand the pain, go back over the past quotes of any of the current gang in the White House. Bush's best can be found here. He has not monopolized the class by any means, but his seem to be the only ones with something like their own website--and a book.

Barry has already posted this rather fresh Dubya doozy tonight, but it's just so comically horrible I feel compelled to do what I can to broadcast it farther.

"There's no cave deep enough for America, or dark enough to hide."—George W. Bush, Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug. 29, 2002
One can only weep.

For the crew in Washington, war is the end, not the means, according to an argument which would have been familiar to Thomas Merton.

They want war. It's not that they want peace and a better way of life for the Iraqi people blah, blah. It's not that they want security and freedom for us. They want the war. As if they have a chip, not on their shoulder but in their brains and it is programmed for war.

Thomas Merton believed what the rest of the world is trying to tell Bush, Cheney and their tapestry of advisers: war will exacerbate all problems - it will bury the chip deeper in some and release it in others but war will only make more war - more violence - more anger - and more of what war has always given us.

War is not, as Rumsfeld told a sea of soldiers in camouflage, a difficult means to a positive end. Thomas Merton believed that for the likes of Rumsfeld, war is the end.


A clueless cabal agitates and sells their nobility as they lay the groundwork for war and tolerate the objections. They "understand" the natural apprehensions of informed and learned people of good will but they are further along in the decision-making and they may or may not wait for the rest of the world to "catch up."

This nation has become a theocracy, as proven by the absolute astonishment of the overwhelming majority, and their extraordinary virulence, when they hear that anyone might object to the state imposition of their particular cult. I hugely admire those who work to bring it in line with the principles of its fundamental document, and this particular citizen seems to be able to move mountains.

The California atheist who sued to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance now wants to kick the House and Senate chaplains out of Congress.

Michael A. Newdow, a lawyer and emergency room doctor, this week filed suit in federal district court in Washington contending that it is unconstitutional for taxpayer-funded chaplains to pray in Congress and minister to lawmakers. He wants the court to prohibit the House and Senate from employing spiritual chaplains, who are paid by Congress to lead prayers, counsel members and perform other religious tasks. Chaplains make as much as $147,000 per year.

"If congressmen want to go to church, [then] walk down the block like other Americans do and go to church,'' Newdow said in an interview yesterday. "Don't get my government engaged in it. There are some people who don't love God Almighty. That's why we have an Establishment Clause," the constitutional ban on government establishment of an official religion .

Trent Lott doesn't quite get it.
"The Capitol is the people's house,'' Lott said, "and I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans who send their senators and members of Congress to Washington to represent them, are comforted by the fact that our chaplains lead us in seeking guidance from a superior power, as we are called upon to make decisions. We should not look upon this as a frivolous case but as another attack on religious liberty."
The plucky plaintiff does not lack confidence in the ultimate success of his case. He points out that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2000 which concluded that "the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the State affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer."
Newdow, who says he "absolutely denies the existence of any Supreme Being," claims he applied for the jobs of House and Senate chaplains, and was passed over.
Wish us luck.

Alright, I'm back. I've recovered just a little from the impact of the item I posted below.

Still I can make only a very few observations for now. Just how much free speech is "too much" free speech?

Even more to the point, whose speech will say my speech is too free speech?

And finally, this is a citizenry which has decided that the huge corporate payoffs which determine the choice of all of our presidents, legislators, governors and even the composition of our courts, supreme or otherwise, is and must remain free speech, yet half of those same citizens think there is too much freedom of real speech, meaning yours and mine and also that of the press from whom they get all of their information.

How do people like this get through even an ordinary day?

I just don't know how to tackle this one. It's simply beyond my comprehension, but it tells me that we really are doomed.

Roughly half of Americans think the constitutional freedom of speech guarantees of the First Amendment go too far.

"Many Americans view these fundamental freedoms as possible obstacles in the war on terrorism," said Ken Paulson, executive director of the First Amendment Center, based in Arlington, Va., which commissioned the survey. Almost half also said the media has been too aggressive in asking the government questions about the war on terrorism.
Unrestricted constitutional freedom of speech is the one civil rights element of our system which stands out above that of every other nation on earth, and half of us want to chuck it.

There are all kinds of cultural heroes, and Fred Plotkin belongs in their rank.

Mr. Plotkin, 46, is one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy. He is the author of "Opera 101," an operaphilic perennial since it was published in 1994, as well as five cookbooks-cum-social histories about Italy.
He is a very hands-on legend, and one of his best anecdotes involves a cellphone story which is hard to top.
The New York Philharmonic was playing energetically, but the gentleman on the aisle in Row M of Avery Fisher Hall was bored. He wasn't that much of a gentleman, either, for he actually pulled out his cellphone and began talking. "Hi, how are you?" he announced in a Texas drawl. "What's going on?"

Here is what was going on: Kurt Masur was conducting the Brahms Second Symphony in front of a hushed full house, and Fred Plotkin wanted to listen.

"I was incensed," recalled Mr. Plotkin, a onetime performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera who was also seated in Row M. Mr. Plotkin sprang from his seat and snatched the cellphone from the yapper's hand, turned it off and pocketed it. He returned it only at intermission. Our hero.

But wait, there's more.
There was the night he politely, but firmly, asked Imelda Marcos to leave a 1986 "Tosca." ("After she was seated in Row H, she began offering patrons $1,000 in cash to buy extra tickets for her entourage, and I ejected her for scalping," he said.) Then there was the time Mr. Plotkin barred a tardy Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a 1983 "La Boheme" until she could be seated at intermission with her eight security guards. ("Nobody is above the law," he said.)
Oh, and we'll definitely vouch for his understanding of Italy and Italian food.

The question is for America only, for Europe and the remainder of the world have maintained their responsibilities, in many cases with very advanced systems. Americans however have so confounded their own real interests that here virtually any form of public transportation is looked upon as something only the poorest of the poor have to resort to.

Actually, we was robbed.

The major answer to this question is the long-standing opposition of The Highway Lobby -- the auto, oil, tire and cement industries. You don't hear much these days about "The Highway Lobby" as such. The reason is that it has done its destructive job which is to make America an occasion for ribbons of crowded highways carrying millions of motor vehicles as the only "practical and direct" way to get around on the ground.

At times the lobby has to resort to crime to achieve its assaults on public transit, while at other periods, it just used its money, muscle and propaganda with state and Washington lawmakers. Twenty eight crimes were committed by General Motors and its oil and tire company co-conspirators in the Thirties and Forties leading to their convictions in federal district court in Chicago during the late Forties. The U.S. Justice Department's charge, upheld in court, was that these large companies, inorder to eliminate their major rivals -- the trolley industry -- bought up these firms, tore up the tracks in and around 28 major cities in the U.S., including the biggest one in Los Angeles, and lobbied legislators to build more and more highways to sell more and more vehicles, gasoline and tires. Earlier, GM tried to pressure banks to reduce credit to these trolley companies and when that did not succeed sufficiently, the conspiracy to buy out their competitors and shut them down was hatched.

This is more than corporate crime history. Everyday, today, tomorrow and the next day, millions of Americans find themselves on clogged, bumper to bumper commutes because there is no convenient mass transit or no mass transit at all where they live and work.

Appearing to be railing against himself, the Shrub was back on the campign trail today.

"We must not allow the world's worst leaders to develop and harbor the world's worst weapons," Bush said at a fund-raising speech [on thursday]. The remark is his standard stump-speech line generally regarded as referring to Saddam. [but at least as appropriate for a description of George W. Bush and the rest of the White House crew]
Meanwhile, in San Antonio, his (sorta vice-)president, Cheney, was once again beating his own little drum for the same absurd obsession.
Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday hammered home the U.S. case for pre-emptive action against Iraq, brushing off a groundswell of unease among European allies, Muslim states and broader world public opinion.
So, I guess that's settled; the ayes have it.
Cheney used a gathering of Korean War veterans to repeat an earlier indictment of Saddam Hussein, charging the Iraqi leader with acquiring weapons of mass destruction and posing a "mortal threat" to the United States.

[This is not going to be the biggest issue any of us have to deal with today, but, what the heck, we can't do important stuff all the time.]

I did not know until this morning that this was the reason I normally have no interest in tennis, but does the story surprise me? Uhuh.

Tommy Haas simply took the dare to bare. If Anna Kournikova could expose her tan hipbones in a low-ride skirt, if Serena Williams could pack her dangerous curves into a Lycra cat suit, Haas saw no reason he could not follow the skin-is-in trend at the United States Open by showing a little . . . biceps.

His sleeveless shirt was breathable and built for range of motion but completely illegal in the discriminating eye of Brian Earley, the tournament referee. In Earley's opinion, Haas's attempt yesterday to inject a little zing into the moribund ATP Tour, to employ the same sex-appeal strategy the women have used so well, was out of step with Earley's interpretation of the rules for customary attire.

Yikes! Are these guys real? I don't know where to begin to address this stupidity, but let's just say that not all of us out there thinks this is equivalent to this. And why would anyone want to see these gentlemen work in more comfortable attire, even if it meant we had to be exposed to a little more of their physical beauty?

Ah, much better.

The Israeli government issued a statement thursday admitting its forces killed innocent civilians in Gaza. [four dead, eight wounded]

But anyone who sees what is being done to every Palestinian under illegal Israeli control would long ago have had to assume that, for the Israeli government, there were no innocent Palestinians.

Is this a moral breakthrough, or a momentary absence of mind?

For more, see Bloggy.

He was arrested at 81 for soliciting sex from a professional (actually a police officer in professional disguise), and not for the first time, and he's neither ashamed nor hesitant about talking about it. He answers the reporter's question, no, he doesn't need viagra. He's Italian. He says he doesn't see why he has to sneak around for satisfaction.

"I just felt like, you know, having a feeling — being close to someone," [Dominick] Salerno told the Daily News when asked about his second arrest for being a john in less than eight months. "It happens."

Salerno's rap sheet shows he has been looking for love in all the wrong places since he was 71, when he was first charged with soliciting a prostitute.

"As long as the girls are clean and checked medically, [prostitution] should be legal," he contended.

The spry senior from Ridge, L.I., said he was cruising for a quickie Monday night when a young streetwalker in tight black pants and a white blouse caught his eye.

"I made the proposition, $20 for oral sex," Salerno said candidly. "But I felt something was wrong and drove away."

But faster than he could say early bird special, "two cop cars pulled me over."

The unenlightened Daily News website displays this new story in its "Crime File" drawer. I could think of any number of more suitable labels, even though their beknighted subscribers are not yet offered "Activism" as a story category. PONY (Prostitutes of New York) should grab him fast--no, I mean as a poster boy!

But if we have any intelligence we already knew this.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced on Wednesday that lightweight, fuel efficient autos are safer for the driving public than the average sport utility vehicle. The study found that SUVs are just about the most dangerous cars on the road for all drivers combined, and that even for the SUV driver alone they are "as risky as the average mid-size or large car, and no safer than many of the most popular compact and subcompact models."

[Tom Wenzel, who co-wrote the report,] said his study indicated that design, rather than size, appeared to be the critical safety factor for vehicles, noting a wide range in risks between different subcompact and compact models.

According to the report the safest small cars, the Volkswagen Jetta and Honda Civic, were shown to be twice as safe as the comparably sized Chevrolet Cavalier, Ford Escort, and Dodge Neon.

Even so, when considering the combined risks to all drivers on the road, most cars are safer than the average SUV, the report said.

"All the evidence in our study shows that vehicles can be, and in fact are being, made lighter and more fuel efficient without sacrificing safety," said Wenzel. "The argument that lowering the weight of cars to achieve high fuel economy has resulted in excess deaths is unfounded."

Let's get Smart.

This is a months-old interview conducted by Ha'aretz on the last of Steve's days in Palestine this spring. I'm posting it here and at this time for the background it provides for the impulses which brought Steve and others back this summer. He returns to New York tomorrow, thursday, and I expect to soon post something in the way of a follow-up.

[Steve tells the reporter,] "When I went to Hebrew University in the early 1980s, I was a Zionist with Peace Now views and not very involved. The turning point for me was the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. It forced me to assimilate information I've accumulated over time and to come to conclusions ... Since then I've been working for a free Palestine."

Quester joined Jews Against the Occupation, a New York-based organization: "I feel (the Jews in New York) are really relieved to know about us. There are Jews whose stomachs turn when they hear what's going on here, but they're afraid to say so ... I feel ordinary people have a responsibility to make the world better so, I reacted to this situation by coming here."

[His colleague, Dr. Robert Lipton, describes himself.] "I am a Jewish American and feel intimately involved because of my identity. (The occupation) seems like a very obvious wrong that needs to be righted and it's in my own backyard, culturally and religiously. For the first time, at Jewish Voice [for Peace], I have felt like an insider - it's a place where I could feel comfortable with other Jews about articulating my opposition to the occupation. People often say (we are) 'self-hating Jews,' but we're actually helping Jews live here better because the occupation has distorted Israeli and Jewish American societies. It's not that I'm discounting violence toward Israel, but it doesn't happen by itself."

The myth is that our Republican White House hijackers represent and worship free market capitalism. The reality is that they embody and practice crony capitalism,

in which whom you know is more important than what you do and how you do it. That's the world Bush's key policymakers come out of: they've made their careers by circumventing the free market. Why expect them suddenly to embrace it?

The examples within the inner bunch, while not quite legion, may be without exception.
Almost none of the C.E.O.s on the Bush team headed competitive, entrepreneurial businesses. The majority of them, in fact, made their bones in protected or regulated industries, where success depends on personal lobbying and political maneuvering. Bush himself, of course, built a small fortune on family connections, finagling a spot on the board of Harken Energy, and securing a publicly financed stadium for the Texas Rangers. Dick Cheney, meanwhile, got the top job at Halliburton almost solely because of his political connections. His successor there, David Lesar, has said, "What Dick brought was obviously a wealth of contacts." Wealth of contacts, indeed: under Cheney, Halliburton expanded internationally, gained $1.5 billion in subsidies from the U.S. government, and added a billion dollars in government contracts.

What about Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill? Yes, he did a fine job of reviving the fortunes of the aluminum giant Alcoa. But he did so, in part, by helping to orchestrate an international price-fixing cartel. In 1994, in Brussels, after a fierce lobbying effort by O'Neill and his corporate peers, five countries and the European Union agreed to slash aluminum production to drive up aluminum prices. By the end of that year, prices had nearly doubled and political favoritism had rescued Alcoa from the whims of the free market.

Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans ran an oil-and-gas company. Mitch Daniels, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, was a vice-president at Eli Lilly. Army Secretary Thomas White was the head of energy trading at Enron. Air Force Secretary James Roche came from Northrup Grumman. And Navy Secretary Gordon England put in time at General Dynamics. All these companies depend for success on regulatory approval, government largesse, or cartel-like machinations. This is especially true of the energy industry—the Bush Administration's finishing school—in which the greatest determinant of a company's annual performance is a price more or less fixed in Vienna by a cabal of sheikhs.

So, while it's long been clear that the unelected one serves neither the lower nor the middle classes, it looks like his bounty may even be limited within the upper ranks to those who are part of the right interest groups, those who don't hesitate to sell themselves, and the entire country.

I'm a little late with this indymedia item, and I hope it hasn't been rendered null by subsequent police events, but here it is, in a great and honorable tradition.


Take your muzzle off and speak your mind at the weekly Tompkins Square Speaker's Corner. Every Saturday starting at 8pm on the S/W corner of Tompkins Square.

Not ready to spend that last $20 dollars at an overpriced East Village bar? Step over the police barricades and join the poets, the anarchists, the loudmouths, the crusty old reds, and the crusty young squatters! Step up on the soap box and take back your neighborhood by telling the consumer zombies and the cops exactly what's on your mind! War on Iraq? Police brutality? Palestine? George Bush? EVERY SPEAKER WELCOME! EVERY SPEAKER A KING! Every Saturday night starting at 8pm on the S/W corner of Tompkins Square.

--to the olympics.

First they tried just selling us the billion-dollar sports stadium, then they switched the bait to a plan for a New York City Olympics. Gee willickers, how can you be against that?

Both plans are ludicrous through and through, but I'm not going to go into the case here. Instead, I'm registering my amazement at the lead column on the front page of the NYTimes sports section today. I said the sports section!

There is no hard evidence that major sports events benefit their hosts. Building stadiums is often a Chamber of Commerce boondoggle, to put the Greatest Little Town in the World on the map.

Imagine how embarrassed New York would be right now if it had been stuck building new stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees only to have the blockhead owners and the dunderhead players stage a ruinous long layoff.

Sports have a close connection with bad civic values. There are high schools in New York spending money for football helmets while the city cannot provide enough textbooks to enhance the brains inside the helmets.

Why cities without gays and rock bands are losing the economic development race," Richard Florida describes what he call the "creative class" as those who "do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries--from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit. These are the engines of the new urban civilization, of the revival of (certain) American cities.

It is a telling commentary on our age that at a time when political will seems difficult to muster for virtually anything, city after city can generate the political capital to underwrite hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in professional sports stadiums. And you know what? They don't matter to the creative class. Not once during any of my focus groups and interviews did the members of the creative class mention professional sports as playing a role of any sort in their choice of where to live and work. What makes most cities unable to even imagine devoting those kinds of resources or political will to do the things that people say really matter to them?
The creative class is not indifferent to athletic activities, but they are into active sports, from traditional ones like bicycling, jogging, and kayaking to newer, more extreme ones, like trail running and snowboarding.
Not once during any of my focus groups and interviews did the members of the creative class mention professional sports as playing a role of any sort in their choice of where to live and work.
For the purposes of this argument, I think we can safely exclude spectating Olympic events from the category of "active sports," and safely include Olympic Games in the category of professional sports.

[Today's report, probably his last from Palestine on this visit, is directly from Steve himself. I can only comment that I'm unable to clearly see the keyboard or the screen as I try to post this. Once again, the links are my doing.]

A million thanks to Donald, my Most Excellent Support Person, for
calling me every day and sending out reports. I'll read through
them when I get home, and elaborate on whatever stuff I forgot to
tell him on the phone.

On Sunday night, a Palestinian-American friend and I stayed once
again at the home of a family in New Askar Refugee Camp in Nablus.
Two sons of this family have been killed by the Israeli army, and it
is reasonable to assume that the house is slated for demolition.
(The Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that the army is not
required to give any advance notice before coming to demolish a
home.) I had many fascinating conversations with the family during
the 4 nights I stayed at that particular house, and was of course
treated to the usual warm Palestinian hospitality. It's amazing how
generous people are here, even when they have nothing.

I hope they'll be OK. They've suffered so much already. I'll try
to stay in touch with them, but access to the Internet is very
limited at Askar, and Israel is not currently allowing mail delivery
in the West Bank.

At about midnight, the army sent up about 12 very bright and long-
lasting flares over New Askar, Old Askar, nearby Balata Refugee
Camp, and the nearby village of Azmut. One of the flares fell to
the ground in Azmut, and started a fire. We saw military vehicles
moving from the Jewish settlement of Elon More, on the hill above
us, toward Azmut. There were also F-16s flying overhead. We were
really scared; I though that the flares were a prelude to aerial
bombardment or an attack on foot. We called the U.S. Consulate to
tell them what was happening and to inform them of the U.S. citizens
on the ground; we were thinking of our own safety, and of using our
presence to increase the safety of the Palestinians in the camp.
The consulate was as hostile as always; European activists inform me
that their consulates are much more helpful.

In the end, nothing happened in Askar Camp on Sunday night. Azmut
probably got hit hard. The villages around Nablus are really
suffering; while Nablus has been under curfew for more than 60 days,
there are villages that have been under curfew for one or two
years. The residents have no access to medical care, markets for
their produce, etc.

On Monday morning, I took some video footage of graves of non-
combatants from the camp killed by the army. They're buried in a
playground, because curfew did not allow people access to the
cemetery. I also heard the story of the 7-year-old boy who was
killed by Israeli fire while walking from his home in New Askar to
the school in Old Askar. I've witnessed many instances of
gratuitous Israeli firing, not aimed at anything in particular,
meant for intimidation, and it is not at all suprising that, from
time to time, someone gets in the way and is shot and killed. The
solution to this problem, though, is not better military procedures
for the Israel Occupation Force. The solution is an end to the

We set out from Askar Camp to walk to the Union of Palestinian
Medical Relief Committees
. We were going to get a taxi from there
to the Howarra Checkpoint. But when we go to the main road
alongside Askar, we found a tank in the road. We stayed in sight of
the tank for quite some time until it left; there were a lot of boys
in the street, some of them throwing stones at the tank, and we
didn't want them to get shot at.

We then walked down to an armored personnel carrier, where, we were
told, two boys had been taken by the army. We got nowhere with the
soldiers (but they didn't arrest us, as I feared they might), but we
found the parents of the boys, who were of course beside
themselves. We put them in touch with an Israeli human rights
organization that tracks detainees, and got a cab to the UPMRC.

The cab had to leave us a short walk away from the UPMRC because of
tanks in the road. The informal curfew network in Palestinian
cities is amazing; drivers always stop and talk to each other,
people keep in touch via cell phone, and boys in the street run up
to drivers and pedestrians with information. Everyone is trying to
figure out where the soldiers are and what's a safe route from A to
B. Movement under curfew is not prevented, but is reduced to about
10% of what would be normal. People out tring to make a living, or
obtain food or medical care, or visit a loved one, are criminalized,
and risk injury or death.

Curfew seemed especially tight on Monday in Nablus, with tanks and
APCs in a number of unwonted locations. I have a really bad feeling
about what the Israeli army may be planning for Nablus, especially
as internationals beging to leave the city to return home for work
or school.

We, with our international privilege, wer able to walk right by one
of the tanks. As we turned the corner and approached the UPMRC,
there was an explosion so loud I felt it. It may have been one of
the sound bombs the soldiers use to disperse crowds, but I could
detect no prvocation for it.

We were able to make it from the UPMRC to the Howwara Checkpoint OK; our driver waited until it was reported that the tank on that road had moved. We were allowed to cross without questioning, but a member of our group, a 72 year old Republican Arab-American from Cape Cod, then intervened on behalf of a family of ten, including a one-week old baby, who were waiting in the sun while the soldiers refused them passage. They were seeking medical care, and had documentation to prove it. The activist from Cape Cod nagged the soldiers until two of the family were let through, and he put the family in contact with the same Israeli human rights organization, who later that day got them all across.

We took a taxi from Howwara to Jerusalem, picking up three activists
at the Qalqilya Checkpoint along the way. Our taxi had Israeli
license plates, so we were able to travel on the settler road. The
roadside is dotted with graffiti in Hebrew calling for death to the
Arabs, vengeance, and expusion. "Kahane was right" is a common
one. Road signs indicating Jewish and Palestinian communities are
in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, but on many signs the Arabic has
been blacked out with spray paint.

The Qalqilya activists told me how they hade busted through that
checkpoint a couple of days before. They had waited for two hours
(the army has figured out that it is in their interest to keep
international witnesses out of occupied cities), and then just
walked through. An Israeli film crew, there to film the wall that
the army is building between Israel and the West Bank, refused to
document the activists' defiance, and urged the soldiers to arrest
the activists. The film crew made a special point of indicating the
one Palestinian among them, and said, "Arrest him! Arrest him!"
Fortunately, by the time the soldiers got over their astonishment,
the activists were speeding away in a taxi. This was, of course,
the kind of action that only internationals can undertake;
Palestinians alone would run a high risk of being shot.

I've always thought of Arab East Jerusalem, victim of Israeli
underdevelopment, as kind of pathetic, but after Nablus it seemed
like the land of plenty. It was amazing to see fully stocked food
stores, open restaurants, and crowded sidewalks. I don't know how
people in Nablus (Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm, Gaza...) can endure the
deprivation, month after month.

On Tuesday morning, the Cape Cod activist and I went to the offices of HaMoked, the Israeli group that had helped us help people in Nablus, to thank them. We had a really good conversation with their director about the work they're doing, and the work we're doing. Today (Wednesday), I'll try to meet with someone from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, to talk about their struggle of many years(a losing battle...Israel is now talking about bulldozing houses if Israeli Palestinians as well. To my knowledge, the homes of Jews accused of crimes are never detroyed.), and about the successs we've met with so far by sleeping in threatened homes.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Bethlehem, where I was during the Israeli invasion in April. There was only one APC in town--the Israelis have otherwise pulled out, although they're expected to re-invade soon--and it was wonderful to see the city alive and vibrant. Sadly, I learned that 5 houses had been demolished there in one week; there was an insufficient international presence there to provide the houses with protection. A couple of weeks ago I had been there and had visited a demolished house; the family was living in a tent on top if the ruins. It was like 1948 all over again. I had some money that had been donated by workers at Oxygen, and gave it to a community leader to pass on to the family. They phoned to thank me a few days later.

I had a fantastic visit with my family is Azzeh Refugee Camp in
Bethlehem, where I had been in April. It was hard to say goodbye to
them, just as it had been hard the day before to say goodbye the day
before to our wonderful friends in Askar. I hope to come back for
all of next summer, but that's a long way away.

I fly home tomorrow, and will once again be checking my email at
[email protected] I am looking forward to opportunities to speak
about Palestine, and to show the video and still documentation and
Palestinian testimony that my group collected. It's become harder
to do that, though; Jews Against the Occupation had three report-
backs scheduled for August, but all three host venues cancelled
after receiving threats from the Jewish Defence Organization.

As for the rest of my JAtO affinity group: Lisa is home in New York,
safe and sound, and by now Ryan and Erica should be, too. Jeremy
and Zaid are still in Askar; Jeremy comes to Jerusalem tomorrow and
flies home Friday, and Zaid is here until the middle of November.

If you're thinking of joining ISM for the olive harvest (Oct. 15-
Nov. 15), go for it! The farmers really need your protection from
soldiers and settlers. You can register at

Free Palestine!


The "deeply decent" handsome, eponymous star of the soap opera-like strip, Rex Morgan M.D. has come out in favor of what his creator calls "a single-payer, state-supported health care system."

Interestingly, the man behind Rex Morgan's position isn't some "communist or liberal socialist" -- although he has received plenty of mail calling him that, and worse. He's Woody Wilson, a 55-year-old registered Republican from Tempe, Ariz., who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 elections.

"I believe the country that is supposedly the richest and most powerful in the world shouldn't be forcing its citizens to choose between paying their mortgage or saving their lives. Yet that is what is happening with millions of Americans right now," Mr. Wilson said in an interview this week.

"What's needed is health care for everyone instead of dividends for stockholders in pharmaceutical companies."

Unfortunately "everyone" doesn't make the decisions in this country. Decision-making ability is instead the biggest big stockholders' dividend of all.
Unsurprisingly, those Americans critical of Mr. Wilson's position like to ask him, "Do we want to have a Canadian health-care system? Do we want rationing? Do we want to wait in line for hip-replacement surgery?"

Mr. Wilson chuckled. "My wife and I were talking about this and she said, 'Well, in Canada, [health care] is about waiting; in America, it's about money.' I want the waiting."

Universal health care, in America it's still just an idea in a not-so-comic strip.

Why do we have to be eternally blind to the experience, whether successful or disastrous, of other nations or societies? Because we're so damned provincial--or foolishly convinced we're always right.

The germans, who love the forest perhaps more than any people, have long worked with a system which evolved over at least a millenium. There may be problems with the monoculture which often accompanies strict forest management, but the aesthetic and the discipline is striking. If you walk into a German forest, more often than not you will see trees, but no underbrush, no fallen trunks, no rotten stumps. It's been cleared down below. It all looks tailored. It is.

I [Gilgamesh] would conquer in the Cedar Forest.... I will set my hand to it and will chop down the Cedar.

--Epic of Gilgamesh

The visual sign of the well-managed forest, in Germany and in the many settings where German scientific forestry took hold, came to be the regularity and neatness of its appearance. Forests might be inspected in much the same way as a commanding officer might review his troops on parade, and woe to the forest guard whose "beat" was not sufficiently trim or "dressed." This aboveground order required that underbrush be removed and that fallen trees and branches be gathered and hauled off.
Our own studies today support the german practice as a fire deterrent.
Scientists for and against thinning the forest at large say it has to be carried out according to a prescription or it may cause serious ecological problems. Just small fuels on the ground and trees up to three or four inches in diameter should be removed instead of larger trees, which are more fire-resistant.
Researchers report further that "Timber harvest, through its effects on forest structure, local microclimate and fuels accumulation, has increased fire severity more than any other recent activity," and that includes fire suppression. The American forest looks like a mess (ok, an attractive, if impenetrable, mess), and its undergrowth, potentially useful for fuel, fill or other purposes, rots away (unless it ignites first). It would be nice if we could find a way to reduce the scale of destructive forest fires without giving away the store.

Bush wants to sell to big corporations the right to log mature trees which are not a fire danger to populated areas, in return for clearing out the stuff that should be removed. The clearing responsibility is not likely to be policed and logging and clearing operations should be treated as separate issues. The Shrub is using the recent spate of destructive fires as an excuse to further enrich his class.

In fact, the government doesn't make money when it sells timber rights to loggers. According to the General Accounting Office, the Forest Service consistently spends more money arranging timber sales than it actually gets from the sales. How much money? Funny you should ask: last year the Bush administration stopped releasing that information. In any case, the measured costs of timber sales capture only a fraction of the true budgetary costs of logging in the national forests, which is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies, especially for road-building. This means that, environmental issues aside, inducing logging companies to clear underbrush by letting them log elsewhere would probably end up costing taxpayers more, not less, than dealing with the problem directly.

So as in the case of the administration's energy policy, beneath the free-market rhetoric is a plan for increased subsidies to favored corporations. Surprise.

A final thought: Wouldn't it be nice if just once, on some issue, the Bush administration came up with a plan that didn't involve weakened environmental protection, financial breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations and reduced public oversight?

A magnificent, sober discussion of the morality of war, particularly of what war means in a democracy, and most particularly of the war we are about to launch. No hysterics, no cant.

One common philosophical argument for democracy is that democratic regimes are particularly unlikely to start wars. When the power to declare war is closely tethered to the preferences of those who would bear the costs of fighting, it stands to reason that this power will be used sparingly. Thus, many political philosophers have followed Kant in supposing that the universal embrace of democracy offers the best hope of world peace.

Our nation now finds itself on the verge of initiating war against another sovereign nation. We have not been attacked by Iraq, and we have thus far failed to produce convincing evidence that Iraq has aided, or plans to aid, those who have attacked us. If we go to war, we will be the initiators of aggression.

It would be a mistake, however, to take this as fresh cause for doubt about the link between democracy and peace. We ought instead to view this imminent possibility as an occasion for raising hard questions about whether, in the critical matter of waging war, we still function as a genuine democracy.

What a country! Can we still say stuff like this? Yes, but it doesn't matter, since we're still not able to influence what passes for our own government, even if we talk nice.

Mark Morford's "SF GATE MORNING FIX" email raised a few eyebrows monday when he introduced the White House lawyers war authority story with this extended paragraph:

**Geedubya Makes Big War Stuff Go Boom**
White House lawyers have told President Bush he would not need
congressional approval to attack Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Two senior
administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity but who's names are Bob and Louis and who live at 3566 Kensington Lane and 220 Jackson #3 in D.C. and who's home phone numbers are 555-8761 and 555-9002 and who like a nice Chard with dinner and interestingly enough each have a secret stash of hardcore bizarre German fetish porn and who really really loathe traffic and wish their wives were just slightly more into the whole oral thing and who love animals and who, deep down, really crave more profound insight and honesty and deep tongue kissing and to have more love and magic in their lives, respectively, said White House counsel Al Gonzales advised Bush earlier this month that the Constitution gives the president authority to wage war without explicit authority from Congress, especially if all his oil-sucking jackass crony advisers and warmongering lint-sodomizing CEO patrons tell him to and he bounces on Dick's knee and licks his pockmarked bald demon skull and giggles giggles snorts.

These are the words of a madman, and not merely the ravings of an idiot, ignorant of fact, of the world and of history. Actually they are certainly both.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney called on Monday for a liberated Iraq, saying now not later is the time for a preemptive strike against President Saddam Hussein.
The news bulletin's description of Cheney's rant and the quotes it supplies show it to be based on lies, but even aside from that it cannot even be parsed sufficiently to apply a rational rebuttal.

Can't we at least understand that Hussein is not dangerous until he does something to defend himself from attack, the attack Cheney seems about to launch in the name of our own rogue state, a superpower running amok under a government arguably as insane as Iraq's own (maybe more so, if we really think about it)?

Finally, note that even in its nonsense form all that Cheney and everyone else in his [sic] administration says about our next target could actually be a description of the U.S. rather than Iraq, especially under the current junta. Aren't we lucky that there is no bully to threaten a preemptive attack on ourselves? Or are we, or is the world?

A Kuwaiti political science professor who had come to the U.S. in 1971 for undergraduate and graduate studies, and who was working in Washington last September, is saddened, like many of us, at the prospect of a less open and accepting America.

A day after the attacks I walked to my office and noticed that people were looking at me more than usual. I kept smiling back and telling myself, "Shafeeq, you have become unusually handsome overnight. Be happy with it."

The America I knew in the 1970's taught me that whatever your ideology you could still be accepted and have a meaningful connection with others. When I first came to the United States I was a leftist and had in me all the anti-American slogans of the Vietnam war and the Palestine struggle. My American professors surprised me with their tolerance. Even when the professors were hard-core Republicans or fundamentalist Christians — I studied for one year at a very small junior college in the Midwest — the fair-mindedness was consistent. It amazed me.

In graduate school, in the 1980's, the most Zionist of all my teachers would listen with empathy to my opinion and my difference of perspective, then argue. This opened the way for respect, learning and understanding. Tolerance, even without accepting the other view, does have a moderating power on people and permits for the repetition of the cycle of understanding. Tolerance breeds tolerance. As a professor of political science at Kuwait University, I practice my old professor's technique on my own fundamentalist students.

--is not limited to the subject of health coverage.

But let's start dismantling it right there.

Free-Market Myth of Health Coverage

To the Editor:

Re "Unproductive Medicare Bashing" (editorial, Aug. 20):

In urging President Bush to "stop the Medicare bashing and work to improve the system," you note that the sick and elderly "are not always in the best position to shop around" for medical coverage. You assert that "it might be possible to design" the free-market solution that the White House and its backers seek, but say only that "nobody has done so yet."

But health care isn't like other commodities. Ordinary people seldom know much about its fast-changing options. By definition a free market can exist only where buyers are as well informed as sellers.

The free-market myth is trumpeted by health-industry interests to maximize their money-making opportunities. It's also attractive to libertarians and others who believe that lower-income folks don't deserve first-class care.

You should be less reluctant to expose this fallacy.
Hoboken, N.J., Aug. 20, 2002
The writer is secretary of Health Care for All, New Jersey.

[The U.S. won't remonstrate against the Saudi government.]

Are we "Drowning Freedom In Oil"? The Muslim world does not hate the West. They quite reasonably hate what the West is doing to their world.

[An Indian Muslim community leader insists,] They hate that you are monopolizing all the nonrenewable resources (oil). And because you want to do that, you need to keep in power all your collaborators. As a consequence, you support feudal elements who are trying to stave off the march of democracy."

The more I've traveled in the Muslim world since 9/11, the more it has struck me how true this statement is: Nothing has subverted Middle East democracy more than the Arab world's and Iran's dependence on oil, and nothing will restrict America's ability to tell the truth in the Middle East and promote democracy there more than our continued dependence on oil.

Yet, since Sept. 11, the Bush-Cheney team has not lifted a finger to make us, or the Arab-Islamic world, less dependent on oil. Too bad. Because politics in countries dependent on oil becomes totally focused on who controls the oil revenues — rather than on how to improve the skills and education of both their men and women, how to build a rule of law and a legitimate state in which people feel some ownership, and how to build an honest economy that is open and attractive to investors.

The Saudi ruling family stays in power not through the support of the progressives, the secularized, U.S.-educated, pro-American elite and middle class.
It stays in power through a bargain with the conservative Wahhabi Muslim religious establishment. The Wahhabi clerics bless the regime and give it legitimacy — in the absence of any democratic elections. In return, the regime gives the Wahhabis oil money, which they use to propagate a puritanical version of Islam that is hostile to the West, to women, to modernity and to all non-Muslim faiths.
That money also finds its way into the hands of the terrorists with whom we insist we are at war.
And it is our oil addiction that keeps us from ever confronting the Saudis on this. Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.

[Donald just sent this message describing Steve's report of his experiences yesterday and today in Palestine.]

I am writing this around 10:30 AM on Sunday, August 25, New York Time

This report covers Saturday, August 24 and some of Sunday, August 25.

As reported previously, a demonstration protesting the occupation was
being planned for Saturday in a town called Hawara (sp?).
Internationals from ISM were joining Palestinians, along with an
Israeli group from Jerusalem, Ha Taayush.

Approaching Hawara, the ISM contingent was met by soldiers. These
soldiers did not advise the group of anything, they simply started
detonating sound bombs and launching tear gas. Steve says he got
mildly tear gassed.

The groups were split up as they dispersed, and Steve ran into an
olive grove. It was while he was doing this that I happened to make
my usual morning call. He told me he would call me back. A few
minutes later, I heard from him. He was in the olive grove, and told
me everything I have just written. He said he had been invited to
someone's home and was going there. While he was in the olive grove,
Palestinians came out with onions, which can provide some relief from
tear gas when you sniff them.

While he was in Hawara at this person's home, tanks went through the
streets with bullhorns and shouts of "Curfew", while launching
teargas. Steve and his hosts locked their doors and shuttered their
windows and decamped to their hallway. Some little boys were brought
in off the street. Steve helped the little boys and they helped
back, offering their onions, as well as rags soaked in vinegar (which
helps alleviate the stinging of tear gas).

Later, when Steve was in the town, he spoke with a woman, saying what
a shame it was that little boys were getting tear gassed. She
said "Tear gas is nothing. You can get over tear gas. Bullets are
the problem". Steve realized that it was possible that the soldiers
might have used live ammunition if it weren't for the presence of

Steve and the ISM people never met up with Ha Taayush. Ha Taayush
was physically stopped by the soldiers from entering the town. They
weren't tear gassed but as Steve put it, they were manhandled. They
weren't allowed to march to the checkpoint, but were allowed to hold
a rally. Then they went back to Jerusalem.

So how to get back home to Nablus and Askar refugee camp? Steve and
about 30 other internationals (plus two Palestinians) got in cabs as
started a journey along a settler road. Eventually they were stopped
by the Army because the cabs had West Bank plates and weren't allowed
on the road. The soldiers made everyone get out of the cabs. It was
unclear what would happen next. Obviously, they would have to walk
to the village of Iraqborin. But before they could do that, the
soldiers wanted to check everyone's ID. This would have guaranteed
arrest of the two Palestinians. So Steve and others fluent in Hebrew
argued and obfuscated and generally prevented IDs from being checked.

They were all welcomed very graciously by the people of Iraqborin and
spent Saturday night there.

One of the Palestinians in the group had not been allowed out of
Nablus for more than a year. She was very happy just to have been
out for a little while.

On Sunday they went back into Nablus. This wasn't supposed to
happen. Steve says the soldiers are preventing internationals from
getting into Nablus and trying to remove all the internationals who
are inside. Apparently, soldiers are stopping everyone, even
searching ambulances, and not allowing them through if they contain
internationals. Steve believes that the military is planning a big
action in Nablus and does not wish to be fettered by humanitarian
concerns which internationals might call attention to. Nevertheless,
with the help of some seasoned drivers who knew all the right dirt
paths to circumvent checkpoints, Steve was delivered to the door of
the Nablus office of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief

Steve is going to rest today. He was exhausted by Saturday's
activities. Tonight he will stay in Askar refugee camp, and tomorrow
he will go back to Bethlehem to visit people and bring things to them.

Steve says "It's amazing how hard life is here under curfew. You
risk imprisonment just for going out to get food."

That's the report.

It's a chink in my atheistic armor, but I'll admit I have a soft spot for both the people and the institutions of the world's most human and progressive religious communities.

The folks connected to St. Paul's Chapel in downtown Manhattan, along with their ancient stones, wood and plaster, answered to that description long before September 11 last year. They're good and gentle, often gay (although regretably too often male). They minister to the homeless (the eighteenth-century baroque balconies were furnished with good beds), the place is very beautiful and very old, and besides, their often adventurous noon-time concerts with their eclectic audiences were the regular highlight of my workday at the World Trade Center. What's not to like?

For most of the last year the Chapel has served the City in a very different way, but one not out of its character. Tomorrow finally marks its return to a more conventional ministry, after a thorough cleaning and restoration, but Mike Borrero, the property manager for Trinity, the episcopal parish of which St. Paul's is a part, says, "It feels like there's something missing. It feels empty."

What is missing are firefighters and police officers and construction workers stretched out on the pews, desperate for a few hours' respite from ground zero; chiropractors, massage therapists and podiatrists stationed along the north aisle (the podiatrists working out of the presidential box in which Washington worshiped); volunteers dishing out hundreds of meals at tables under the organ gallery or handing out supplies — socks, gloves, sweatshirts, ponchos, boots, shovels, aspirin, lip balm, toothpaste — along the south aisle. What is missing are the banners, photos, greeting cards and children's drawings that hung from every surface but the altar.

Pointedly, however, the scratches and scuffing remain from the boots and belts and equipment of the emergency workers who camped out in the pews. "Our decision was to leave it as a monument," said the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, vicar of Trinity parish. "These are real marks of their ministry, sacramental marks."

Can I just go home now?

Some people are suspicious that President Bush will go for a "wag the dog" strategy -- boosting Republican prospects with a military assault on Iraq shortly before Election Day. But a modified approach now seems to be underway. Let's call it "wag the puppy."
What if they can keep us distracted from our problems and their foibles just enough to squeak through the November elections and what could then be an all-clear signal for further domestic and foreign shenanigans.
For the next couple of months, the president has domestic political incentives to keep "wagging the puppy" while floating a variety of unsubstantiated claims -- like references to wispy dots that implausibly connect the Iraqi dictatorship and al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, sending more ships and aircraft to the Persian Gulf region can be calculated to evoke plenty of televised support-our-troops spectacles. With Old Glory in the background as tearful good-byes are exchanged at U.S. military ports and bases, how many politicians or journalists will challenge the manipulative tactics of the commander-in-chief?

Even if the White House doesn't sic the Pentagon on Iraqi people before the November elections, its efforts to boost pre-war fever between now and then could have enormous media impacts with big dividends at the polls. This fall, our country may see something short of a "wag the dog" extravaganza provided by leading officials of the Bush administration. But unless we can stop them, the full-grown dogs of war are not far behind.

The only actual rationale for an Iraqi war was recently provided by Richard Perle, a leader of the Administration’s neoconservative hawks. "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism," Perle told the New York Times.

Each of the governments which entered into a World War in 1914 felt compelled to do so largely for the same reason argued by Perle. Each felt that if it did not take action, its legitimacy, its power, would be undermined or dissolved. But that is precisely what their acts of war accomplished anyway, as apparently no one in Washington knows or cares, but only after the end of a world, and the death of about eight million combatants (not counting civilians--and there would be civilians this time). The twenty-year intermission, the second act (World War II) and, finally, the epilogue of the Cold War totally buried the horrible record of even the 1914-1918 production.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

[The Latin reads, "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country"--Horace]

Maybe something's finally clicking out there in the head- and heartlands. Today even the NYTimes has to admit it's worth a few lines, but without a doubt this story has real legs--and great pictures!

The violent demonstrations against President Bush caught White House planners by surprise, a presidential spokesman said Friday.

It's not unusual for presidents to be confronted by small protests when visiting outside Washington, D.C. But demonstrations that result in the kind of skirmishes with police that erupted here Thursday night have been rare.

"We did not have any inkling" that such protest would occur, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.

What does this say about Washington intelligence, including the kind that is supposed to stop real evil-doers?
Officials with the National Lawyer's Guild asked Mayor Vera Katz to fire Police Chief Mark Kroeker, claiming Thursday's actions by police were "atrocities against humanity."

Katz' spokeswoman, Sarah Bott, said the mayor and her staff were reviewing film and videotape of the incidents. She said the primary objective was to protect the president and that was accomplished.

The Shrub has a bulletproof limousine, a locked-down hotel, and the entire American military establishment to protect him, but the people who are sovereign, whom he is supposed to represent, who under normal circumstances elevate a president to the temporary position where he is expected to serve their welfare, mean nothing, and their safety is not even the concern of their own city police force.

Get rid of those thugs before they really get into trouble! You don't want Brown Shirts on the public payroll.

But thank you, Portland! We really really love you.

There was not a word of this in the New York Times today, and only four inches of a narrow column hidden just past the comics section of the Daily News. But doesn't it seem worth some real notice when the pretend-president of a nation at war is successfully confronted by an eclectic group of hundreds of (by one Oregon paper's account, a thousand) citizen-demonstrators who are then pepper-sprayed and hit with riot police nightsticks?

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)- Riot police used pepper spray and struck some demonstrators with batons after ordering hundreds of people to leave a protest near a hotel where President Bush attended a fund-raiser.

Protesters hammered on the hoods of police cars as pepper spray wafted through the air. Protesting Bush's foreign policy, they chanted "Drop Bush, Not Bombs."

Bush supporters in formal attire were jostled and taunted by protesters as they arrived for a fund-raiser for the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith. After elbowing through the demonstrators, they were checked by Secret Service agents before they were allowed inside the hotel.

Not the way to treat the people. [By the way, the entire trip to Oregon was to support a local Republican candidate. The Shrub made no public appearances; you had to pay up front--a lot--to see him.] The photos say a lot.
Police seemed unprepared by the size of the crowd, not providing traffic control for motorists whose evening commute suddenly ground to a halt.

The bulk of the crowd moved from barricade to barricade, chanting slogans, beating drums and yelling at police until abruptly pulling back and moving to another barricade.

But the confrontations turned violent at a barricade at the intersection of Southwest Sixth Avenue and Taylor Street when police decided to push the crowd back, first with nightsticks and then with pepper spray.

The Oregonian reported that the demonstration lasted seven hours.
The protesters represented peace groups, labor unions, environmental organizations, churches, low-income advocates and, overwhelmingly, just themselves.

They were irate over Bush's plan to relax environmental standards for logging, a possible war with Iraq, the U.S. stand on the Palestinian question and what they called rampant government corruption, among other issues.

Mustn't report this stuff outside Portland. It might be catching.

[This report from Steve himself just came through. The photo links are my own doing.]

First: The end of the truck story is that both guys got their trucks back. The one guy got his back after all the vegetables rotted.

Early on Thursday morning Steve and other folks went to a roadblock
outside a village called Tel. There was an outbreak of hepatitis in
the village, and there was an ambulance scheduled to come and set up
a mobile clinic. Steve and company set to work on the roadblock with
picks and shovels. Along came soldiers in a tank (Steve calls tanks
APCs for Armed Personnel Carrier). They weren't interested in negotiating anything and told the internationals to be gone in 5 minutes. Steve says "We saw one of them giving another one a tear gas grenade. We talked about it and decided the best thing was to leave." There was another roundabout way for the ambulance to access the village. A confrontation wouldn't accomplish anything, and people might get hurt.

In a previous report an occupied apartment building [in Nablus] was mentioned, with all the occupants locked in their homes. Steve and company went there. Soldiers told them to leave. Steve talked on his cell phone with a woman locked into an apartment in the building. People from across the way waved the internationals into another building, and brought them to an office. This was very timely, as it turned out some tanks were coming down the street.

Steve says this is life under curfew. You go outside your home, but not too far, and when tanks come, you get back inside and lock the door. Nablus has been under curfew for 60 days, during which the curfew has been lifted a total of 60 hours.

Curfew was lifted for 4 hours Thursday afternoon. Steve went with others to watch the checkpoint outside the occupied apartment building. Women and children were allowed through, but all men were stopped, their IDs taken and added to a big pile for examination. The delays for men were substantial, so that by the time their identification was checked, it was almost the end of the break in the curfew.

Among other things Steve witnessed: A woman in labor came to the
checkpoint with her husband. They were meeting an ambulance on the
other side of the checkpoint. The soldiers said they would let the
woman through but not her husband. She wouldn't leave without him.
They added his ID to their pile. Eventually, the soldiers got their
list of "approved" men who would be let through. They made no effort
to even look at the man's ID until they got this list, and even after
they got the list, they did not prioritize checking for this man.
The end result was that the woman in labor stood in the hot sun for
half an hour.

Another man had been waiting a week to rejoin his wife and children
on the other side of the checkpoint. His wife came with the kids, to
advocate for her husband. He was not let through, but the soldiers
said they could come across. The wife wouldn't cross because she was
afraid she couldn't go back, but she sent the kids. There was barbed
wire across the road that adults could step over, but was completely
impossible for the children to cross. The soldiers would not allow
any Palestinians to help the children. They were persuaded to allow
internationals to help the children. Steve was very upset by this

Steve stayed in Askar refuge camp in the home of family who has lost two sons, so their home is at risk of demolition.

Two internationals stay in Askar camp at all times, and Steve was one
of them today. He heard about Erica's arrest. He wants people to
know that she was just walking down the street, in the company of a
young Palestinian man. This man was arrested along with Erica. He
was taken inside an occupied home, his hands were bound, he was
blindfolded, hit and kicked. After two hours, the soldiers told him
he could leave. It was after dark, and curfew was in effect, so the
man asked what he should do if he was stopped by other soldiers. The
soldiers who detained him answered that they would be glad to hold
him for longer if that is what he wanted. He left (and did not come
across any soldiers on his way home).

Steve says there is a big demonstrations being prepared for tomorrow. Everyone is "hunkering down" because a tank was overturned (in Nablus??). Apache helicopters have been heard overhead.

Also, a soldier was killed in Balata refugee camp and a heavy
retaliation is expected.

Steve says: "I can't imagine how the Palestinians live with this day
after day. It's really very stressful."

That's the report.

[Steve did report that his friend Erica had been arrested, and that she has support people here. This report just arrived from JATO (Jews Against The Occupation) rather than from Steve directly.]

Nablus-A member of the New York-based group Jews Against the Occupation was arrested by the Israeli Military earlier today after delivering food and medicine to Palestinian families. She has been falsely charged with shielding rock-throwing boys.

Erica Weitzman, a Manhattan-based humanitarian aid and human rights
worker is currently being held at the Shogai Shomron military base
and will be transferred to a prison at the Ariel settlement to await

Ms. Weitzman has been in the West Bank since August 9th, 2002 and has
been visiting civilian Palestinian apartment buildings that have been
taken over by the Israeli army for use as bases. The army generally
forces several families who live in the building into one small
apartment. Ms. Weitzman has been observing living conditions and
bringing food and medicine to these families who are not permitted to
leave their buildings, even during the short periods when curfew
is lifted. In the past 60 days in Nablus, the round-the-clock curfew
has only been lifted for a total of 60 hours, most of which have been
concentrated in time blocks.

Ms. Weitzman denies having contact with rock-throwing children.

"The more crimes the Israeli government commits against the
Palestinian people in the name of Jews everywhere, the more I felt it
was precisely my responsibility as a Jew to speak out against them."
Ms. Weitzman said at a press conference held in front of the AIPAC
offices in New York before leaving for the West Bank.

Members of Jews Against The Occupation have maintained a presence in
the West Bank since April 2002, working in solidarity with non-
violent Palestinian organizers against the daily military violence
visited on Palestinian civilians. Jews Against The Occupation
recognizes that the acts of the Israeli government are not only
illegal and immoral, but pose a threat to Jewish lives and the fabric
of Jewish identity worldwide.

To interview members of Jews Against The Occupation currently in the
West Bank call:

- Ryan Senser, 011-972-56-375-202:
Former Hebrew schoolteacher, temple youth group leader, and college
Hillel President.

- Steve Quester, 011-972-67-308-192:
"Great evil is being perpetrated on the people of Palestine. Evil is
being done in my name, because I am a Jew. Evil is being done with
weapons I purchased, because I am an American. If I don't stand up
against this evil, who will?" Former Hebrew schoolteacher, current
New York Public School teacher.

- Jeremy A. Hoffman, 011-972-56-711-040:
"My grandparents and great grandparents did not flee the Cossack
raids of Czarist Russia to have their history, culture and religious
tradition exploited to justify the destruction and devastation of

Jews Against The Occupation is a New York City based group of Jewish community leaders, and part of a growing movement of worldwide Jewish dissent against the illegal, violent actions of the Israeli government and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

[see the last ten lines of yesterday's blog for an update on the radio sex story]

From Palestine, Steve has left messages saying that he is fine, but, because of logistical and technical (phone) problems, we don't yet have another real report or live conversation. We expect one soon.

It was either just a stunt or it was the real thing, but it's just sex! A Virginia couple was accused this week of having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral for a shock radio prank. It seems to me that the worst charge that might be leveled would be that of bad taste--arguably. The Daily News loves this sort of story, especially if it involves a real or perceived insult to the Catholic Church [Is it actually possible to insult that thing?], but they don't mind ending their story with a small dose of reality for our entertainment.

[Leaving court yesterday, one of the defendents] shrugged her shoulders and nodded when construction worker Michael Prinzo shouted his support.

"Hey, it's sex. Everybody does it," shouted Prinzo, 36. "What's the big deal?"

Thanks, Michael.

Still, my favorite take on the stunt was that of a letter to the editor printed in yesterday's edition:

Neptune, N.J.: I do not find Opie and Anthony's "tasteless" prank offensive. What do I find offensive? The Crusades, turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, covering up and defending the illegal sexual activities of priests, brainwashing, etc. At least Opie and Anthony [the "shock jocks"] are funny.

Will Johnson

I have no first-hand experience of this program, but it seems that humor is in the mind of the beholder. Today's [friday] Daily News tell us that in January Opie and Anthony, who have now lost their jobs over the St. Pat's incident,
crassly insulted "Hogan's Heroes" actor Robert Clary as he recounted his childhood experience in a Nazi camp.

Clary was assaulted with sound bites of the word "faggot" and audiotape of Hitler speaking - but the incident hardly caused a sensation.

That program doesn't seem to have had anything near the impact of the sex broadcast, since it didn't offend Catholics. The FCC is actually making noises about pulling the station's license altogether. Think about that.

I was going to say, "Geez, is air next, but I immediately realized the air has already been sold to the polluters.

Around the world there is a growing social movement to protect water as a common resource. Because many large corporations have realized that water scarcity and pollution are going to define the next century, a tremendous surge of activity is taking place around the world to commodify and privatize water. Many public interest groups are mobilizing in opposition. One of the most active is Public Citizen, which is campaigning to protect universal access to clean and affordable drinking water by keeping it in public hands.
So reads The Nation email alert. The Jim Hightower piece within the current edition elaborates.
... dozens of American communities presently find themselves under assault by foreign powers with names like RWE, Suez, Vivendi and Perrier. These global corporate raiders are grabbing for our most essential public resource: water. In just the past few years, such transnational conglomerates (along with such US players as Bechtel, T. Boone Pickens, Monsanto and, until recently, Enron) have quietly privatized all or part of the water delivery systems in Atlanta, Berlin, Bolivia, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Chattanooga, Houston, Jacksonville, Jersey City, Lexington, Ky., Peoria, San Francisco and many other places (some of which have reverted to public ownership), plus laid claim to whole bodies of water, including the Midwestern Ogallala Aquifer, Blue Lake in Alaska and Canada's huge James Bay.

We love those guys, but we'd love those women too, and what about the queers? And those are just starters, of course.

Women make up 16 percent of the firefighters in Minneapolis, 15 percent in San Francisco and 13 percent in Miami. In New York, that figure is an abysmal 0.2 percent.
The writer reports recent history as well.
... since Sept. 11, more than 1,000 people have been hired, yet only one was female.
I think we can say that the situation is even more shameful in the case of gay firemen. Tom Ryan is a strong man and pretty fearless. When the homophobic pope was presented last November with the fire helmet of Mychal Judge, the openly gay chaplain for the New York Fire Department who died in the rubble of the World Trade Center, Ryan spoke out.
Following a speech where the pope welcomed the New York firefighters and offered comfort to the families of those who perished in the attack, one firefighter kneeled before the pope and offered Judge's fire helmet decorated with a cross. The pontiff did not speak directly about Judge, a Franciscan priest who was more commonly referred to as Father Mike, or the fact that he was gay.

This part particularly bothered Tom Ryan, an openly gay New York firefighter and national president of FireFLAG/EMS, a peer support group for gay and lesbian firefighters and emergency service personnel.

"I felt a little weird that his helmet was given to the pope. I was a little put off about it," Ryan said. "Last year during Gay Pride in Rome, the pope spent a whole day in prison blessing murderers then came out and condemned homosexuals. To make us feel lower than prisoners was really horrible. I think it's a great injustice to gay people not to include that he (Judge) was gay."

I suspect that this beautiful brave man may actually be the only out fireman on active duty in New York, and this is a terrible indictment of the Department and of the City.

Henry Kissinger committed crimes against humanity in his support of the Argentine military dictatorship's self-described "war on terrorism" in the seventies, when military and paramilitary units were systematically killing, torturing and kidnapping suspected leftists--including several American citizens--during the summer and fall of that year.

Newly declassified documents show the frustration of the American ambassador, Robert Hill, during those months.

"When he had seen Secy of State Kissinger in Santiago, [Kissinger] had said he hoped the Argentine govt. could get the terrorist problem under control as quickly as possible," Mr. Hill wrote. "Guzzetti [the Argentine foreign minister] said that he had reported this to President Videla and to the cabinet, and that their impression" had been that the United States' "overriding concern was not human rights" but rather that Argentina " `get it over quickly.' "

Mr. Kissinger did not return phone calls from a reporter seeking comment.

This is the real reason the current administration is fighting the International Criminal Court; its concern is not for Private Ryan.

I can't say anything more or better than Barry does on this subject.

As someone who thinks a pre-emptive strike on a country that few people other than Bush believe is a significant threat to us, I just signed Move On's petition. This group got started during the horrors of the Clinton impeachment/Republican coup.

I will not feel safe in a world, as an American and a New Yorker, that justifiably believes that force is the only way to convince the USA of anything.

A Republican administration that has Kissinger telling it this is a bad idea is a danger to us all.

Please sign today.

New Yorkers, both queer and straight. This revelation will surely change how we look upon our little neighbors in the future.

Oh, you didn't know that half of pigeons live in single-sex marriages? Neither did they, actually. But according to Linda Olle, a science editor, lecturer and amateur ornithologist, that is, indeed, the poop.

"Some birds, like male and female ducks, look very different," says this New Yorker, who has written a book about her six-year relationship with a pigeon (more on that later). "But pigeons, maybe out of their strong survival instinct, became indistinguishable." Pete the Pigeon looks just like Penny.

And he acts like her, too.

"When they meet, they cannot distinguish whether it's a male or female with them, so they both act in the same sort of feminine way, very unaggressive," continues Olle.

While few have been observed actually shopping for antiques, they do like to groom each other and work out (well, fly, anyway). They also enjoy preparing meals together - although generally this involves chewing food and regurgitating it into each others' beaks.

When things really heat up, they go dancing. That's when one or the other puffs up and struts around. Then, if both birdies feel that special spark, they don't give a hoot whether it's Butch or Bessy they're heading home with. Unable to marry legally, they will nonetheless make a commitment and stick it out the rest of their lives.

If there's not a lesson here for us all, I'm not a columnist. Okay. Maybe I'm not quite sure what the lesson is. I guess it's, "Be like pigeons (except for the regurgitating part)." Or perhaps, "Straight or gay, make a commitment today!"

Oh, yuck.

The White House sends Sharon to Miami to help two Bushes. That's certainly what it looks like, but the move might just backfire.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, will appear in South Florida with Gov. Jeb Bush on Sept. 9 — the day before Mr. Bush's would-be challengers meet in the Democratic primary — at a pro-Israel rally where international affairs will share a stage with domestic political concerns.

Israeli consular officials in Miami said today that Mr. Sharon's appearance had nothing to do with the re-election campaign of President Bush's brother. But Florida Democratic leaders denounced the appearance as the latest instance of what they described as White House intervention on behalf of Governor Bush's campaign. They argued that the visit would help the governor this November and enhance the prime minister's standing with the White House at a time when the administration is torn by conflicting demands from Israeli and Arab leaders.

Now we really do have a reason to go to war. Coca Cola is being attacked by arabs abroad. And the source of the terrorism? Iran, one of the members of the "axis of evil." One problem. The enemy is actually all of our allies in the Middle East. How does that happen?

An Iranian soft drink named after a holy spring in Mecca is said to have won an enthusiastic reception in Saudi Arabia.

Zamzam Cola, an alternative to US brands Coca Cola and Pepsi, has gone on sale at the same time as a campaign to boycott American goods gathers momentum.

A problematic name, but the website is a worthy enterprise nevertheless.


A chickenhawk is a term often applied to public persons - generally male - who (1) tend to advocate, or are fervent supporters of those who advocate, military solutions to political problems, and who have personally (2) declined to take advantage of a significant opportunity to serve in uniform during wartime.

Some individuals may qualify more for their political associations than for any demonstrated personal tendency towards bellicosity. Some women may be included for exceptional bellicosity.

There is another, less savory definition of the term chickenhawk. It is not relevant to this discussion; we intend no such associations to be drawn here.

This list is provisonal. The management of the Gazette is proud to have served the vital public function of assembling the best known list of American chickenhawks, but we confess - we declare and emphasize - that we have not the resources to tend to it properly. Therefore we declare it provisional: we acknowledge there may be faults - hell, we know there are.

The site has garnered kudos all the way across the pond.
The US is now mainly governed by men in their mid-50s, ie the Vietnam generation - except that this lot missed being the Vietnam generation. [They ducked service.] The enterprisingly original New Hampshire Gazette ( maintains a "Chickenhawks" database to tell their stories. Most of the allegations fit with facts recorded elsewhere.
On to Baghdad, son!

[This is a report of Donald's latest communication from Steve in Palestine, written this morning in New York.]

In the last report, I mentioned that the army was occupying a large
house in Nablus, with the original 20 occupants confined to a single
apartment. Outside this house were two Palestinian trucks that the
army had impounded. The army had taken one of the driver's ID
papers. Internationals were advocating for the trucks and the ID to
be released.

I spoke with Steve this morning 8/20 around 7 am New York Time. He
was in the Askar refugee camp outside Nablus.

He had stayed for a long time with other members of JATO outside the
abovementioned house, advocating for the truck drivers, while JATO
members also brought food and medicine for the people in the house.
The area was under curfew, but the presence of so many internationals
encouraged other neighbors to come out of their homes. They brought
food for the JATO folks. This ticked off the army, and soldiers
ordered all Palestinians out of the area, including a representative
from the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. The
soldiers did not order the internationals out of the area. Steve
left at that time.

Over the time they stayed in front of the house, JATO people
witnessed blindfolded prisoners brought to the house. One of them
was obviously beaten up.

Late at night, about 25 soldiers left the house in various armored
vehicles, as Steve put it "to go out capturing and murdering". When
the soldiers came back around 3 am, they had something in writing
identifying the area outside the house as a "military area" and told
the internationals to beat it.

The truck driver whose ID was taken eventually got it back, as well
as his truck. The other truck driver still hasn't gotten his truck
back. This truck is filled with vegetables, which will rot, and
Nablus is full of people who are hungry.

Steve was in Nablus today for a meeting, and heard gunfire as
soldiers deployed in the Kasbah.

ISM is working to put together some strategy around dealing with
occupied homes. Right now everything they are doing at occupied
homes is ad hoc.

Steve says he has heard about an apartment building in a nearby
village where several apartments are occupied by the army, and the
other residents of the building are locked into their apartments.
They have to pound on their own doors for up to two hours to get food
or medicine (like in prison).

I forgot to ask Steve if occupying homes was common throughout the
West Bank, or was a practice isolated to Nablus.

Steve says that it serves no purpose except to harass Palestinians
and make life difficult for them. Nablus is completely encircled by
the army, and they could run their operations from their camps, but
choose to take over homes because it is more intimidating and
offensive. Paraphrasing a remark made by Moshe Dayan regarding
harassment of Palestinians 30 years ago "Let them live like dogs.
They can leave if they don't like it"

End of report

And is this the kind of democratic dialogue we could expect from the nice Iraqi opposition groups the Whitehouse is courting?

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police said Tuesday two people had been injured and shots fired as four or five members of an obscure Iraqi opposition group occupied the Iraqi embassy in Berlin, taking hostages.

"Iraqi opposition members tried to force their way into the embassy and then there were shots from the embassy," a police spokesman told Reuters by telephone.

Another police spokesman at the scene said two people had been injured and said that the number of hostages taken at the embassy was believed to be less than 10, but among those held was thought to be the Iraqi ambassador.

The spokesman said police did not have any more information about the identity of the opposition group. He said German special forces had been informed about the incident.

A group calling itself the Democratic Iraqi Opposition of Germany issued a statement earlier in German saying it was launching a "peaceful and temporary" action to press its demands for an end to the rule of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

On a much lighter note, check out the hot German special forces guy pictured in the NYTimes story. Jeans and t-shirt--don't they need armor to be brave?

And this is from Reuters, not the alternative media!

President Bush used to call him "the evil one" but in recent months Osama bin Laden has become the unmentionable one, replaced by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the chief enemy of the United States.


"They didn't find him, they don't know where he is and it's not in the administration's interest to keep reminding the American people of that," said Michael Sherry, a historian at Northwestern University in Chicago.

"Every time bin Laden is mentioned, it's a reminder that they don't have a clue and it's a reminder of their failure to fulfill their own stated war aims and it's a reminder that the war on terrorism has become directionless and not very effective," Sherry said.


The problem for Bush is, without an invasion of Iraq, there is no clear next step in a global war on terrorism, which Bush declared after Sept. 11 would be the defining mission for his generation for the foreseeable future.

"With no Osama bin Laden and no Saddam Hussein, the war on terrorism becomes a metaphorical abstraction, like the war on poverty," said Keith Shimko, a political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana.

"Clearly we ought to be rebuilding Afghanistan and securing its future. But we as a people have a short attention span and it's hard to keep a focus on nondramatic things that cost money and don't provide the immediate satisfaction you get from blowing things up," he said.

Edward Said has written a powerful, profoundly moving account of the present horror of the Israeli/Palestinian death dance. It's not especially brief, but it carries the reader breathlessly along its argument. The pain is not in the read, but in the message.

Israel is frequently referred to as a democracy. If so, then it is a democracy without a conscience, a country whose soul has been captured by a mania for punishing the weak, a democracy that faithfully mirrors the psychopathic mentality of its ruler, General Sharon, whose sole idea -- if that is the right word for it -- is to kill, reduce, maim, drive away Palestinians until "they break". He provides nothing more concrete as a goal for his campaigns, now or in the past, beyond that, and like the garrulous official in Kafka's story he is most proud of his machine for abusing defenceless Palestinian civilians, all the while monstrously abetted in his grotesque lies by his court advisers and philosophers and generals, as well as by his chorus of faithful American servants. There is no Palestinian army of occupation, no Palestinian tanks, no soldiers, no helicopter gun-ships, no artillery, no government to speak of. But there are the "terrorists" and the "violence" that Israel has invented so that its own neuroses can be inscribed on the bodies of Palestinians, without effective protest from the overwhelming majority of Israel's laggard philosophers, intellectuals, artists, peace activists. Palestinian schools, libraries and universities have ceased normal functioning for months now: and we still wait for the Western freedom-to-write-groups and the vociferous defenders of academic freedom in America to raise their voices in protest. I have yet to see one academic organisation either in Israel or in the West make a declaration about this profound abrogation of the Palestinian right to knowledge, to learning, to attend school.

A lot of people out west and in Washington are very upset about at least one San Francisco AIDS prevention program, but tragically that particular controversy is inconceivable here in New York, where we don't really have a visible AIDS prevention program, with or without governmental involvement, thanks to the power of our religious cults.

[Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., recently urged new CDC Director Julie Gerberding to check into the Stop AIDS Project's campaigns.] The questions: Are federal funds being used to encourage sexual activity, and are the campaigns they fund broaching community obscenity standards?

Please. Campaigns targeting HIV-prevention to young gay men don't ipso facto encourage sexual activity. They may encourage certain precautions during sexual activity, but I've never seen one, or even heard one discussed during planning meetings, that says, "Go forth and, uh, do it."

As to community obscenity standards: Hi. Hello? This is San Francisco. This is the gay community in San Francisco. The only thing considered obscene there -- where sexual aids stand tall in shop windows -- is trying to build a shelter for homeless gay youth. Property values threatened? Now that's obscene!

... the issue is this: Conservative lawmakers are attacking gay community programs with an intensity rarely seen since the Reagan years.

It smacks of cultural backsliding. It smacks of cheap politicizing. And it reminds some of us of a dark era when gay sex was the subject of Supreme Court cases, and Christian fundamentalists created a gay scare to raise funds.

What happened then was that the gay community banded together and fought -- long and hard -- both for better HIV treatments and, by extension, for a different cultural view of homosexuality in America. It worked, though the historically averse among us may not know that.


So Souder and his ilk need to be put on notice: Prepare for a fight. The gay community and its allies can be really tough. The community's political muscle may have gone slightly flabby in the comfy '90s (even as its real muscles ridiculously hardened), but gays and lesbians can be rugged as mountains and just as solid.

When they need to be.

[again, a report from Steve, still in Palestine, relayed through Donald]

Steve and company walked through the checkpoint outside nablus no

ISM people are doing a checkpoint watch to advocate for people not
allowed through. Steve stayed there a couple hours and helped get
people through, including sick people. He witnessed an entire family
get turned away, luggage and all. They were trying to get back home
to Jordan.

Steve went to Balata refugee camp. He says it is "carnivalesque".
Even during curfew it is packed with people, vendors hawking. There
are 30,000 people in the camp. Packed.

Internationals have a definite role to play in stopping the
demolition of Palestinian homes. Steve and others from his group
spent the night in Askar refugee camp, outside Nablus, with 4
different families of people shot by the Israeli military.
Meanwhile, in the old city of Nablus, a home was demolished that was
not housing an international.

The demolitions are usually done around 2 in the morning.

Today Steve watched a tank go down a street in Nablus shooting at
rock throwing kids. His group visited a house in Nablus. It's a
big, beautiful house, and it has a great view of the city, so it has
been taken by the Israeli military. The twenty Palestinians who
lived there have been shoved into a single apartment. confined to one
apartment. Folks from JATO brought medicine and food to those people,

Outside the building there are two trucks being held for driving
during curfew. One of the trucks is full of food which will rot.
Steve and his group hope to persuade military officers to release the
truck (they also have one of the driver's ID papers, which means he
can't go anywhere until he gets them back).

That's all for now.


I'm including below additional information about what people might do to help make a diffference.

[this was a postscript on today's message from Donald, so I'm not sure who wrote it]

Ps In the last post I mentioned ISM organizing support for the Olive
Harvest. You can get lots of information on this action at
[these items are from Steve]
To phone me in Palestine from the United States, dial 011-972-67-308192. I'll be delighted to hear from you. (Palestine is 7 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.)

You're welcome to share my phone number in Palestine with anyone you like. You may also forward this email to anyone you like; just erase the originating email address from the header.

I prefer not to receive email while I'm away.

For information on New York area organizing for direct action in Palestine (or to make a donation), go to

For the extremely informative website of New York's Jews Against the Occupation, the group with which I'm most active, go to

For up-to-date, first-hand, news from Palestine, go to Indymedia Palestine at http//

For diaries and photos from the last delegation, and lots of other excellent information, see For diaries from an activist currently in Palestine, go to For general info on the International Solidarity Movement, see

[than opposing smoking in a cocktail culture] is closing down every night disgusted with the odor of cigarettes wafting from my clothes and hair, even my skin, and trying to stanch my dread about whether this is, in fact, killing me."

The guy knows what he's talking about. He works in a bar of which he is part owner eight blocks below us in Chelsea.

When at last the crowd subsides around 3:30 a.m., I duck around the bar to pull down the shutters on the window and the fire door. The freshness of the air outside is shocking, bracing. It frightens me to consider that if the air on an industrial block of Manhattan's meatpacking district in August seems utopian compared with what I've been breathing all night, what on earth have I been breathing all night?
The New York smoking law is almost certainly about to be changed, and it may soon be safe to go to a bar--even a small restaurant, goldarnit! And no, they won't disappear if smoking is prohibited.
This town is built around connecting with people, and New Yorkers use their myriad nocturnal playgrounds as the living rooms they can't afford. Smokers can raise all the fuss they like about the ban, but show me one who will actually stop going to bars and restaurants if it is impossible to light up.

Can no one pick up a phone and call friends in California, where a similar ban has been in effect since 1994? A musician I know in San Francisco said: "It's not like anyone even thinks about it anymore. Clubs are still hopping, bars are still jammed."

Now, maybe we could get the City fathers to let us dance legally in New York bars. Is that too much to ask, especially since we can argue that it too would contribute to a healthier lifestyle?

And let us buy wine on sundays, as long as we're not christian, and....

Um . . . where do we stand with this right now? Is it so wrong to ask the questions? Instead, isn't it very wrong not to ask the questions?

Back in June, the columnist Bob Herbert predicted that there will be an investigation.

Eventually, almost certainly, a distinguished bipartisan commission will be convened to examine the conditions that led to the catastrophe of Sept. 11.

The Bush administration doesn't want this. And Republicans in Congress are fighting to prevent it. But it will happen.

Regardless of its length, the interval between September 11, 2001, and whatever day the investigation begins is simply a political move at best and criminal negligence, even a major crime, at worst. What is most important, more than blame or justice, worthy as those purposes are, is the avoidance of additional catastophe now and in the future. There's no excuse for further delay.

The NYTimes yesterday illustrated Frank Rich's disection of Dubya's domestic and foreign obsessions with a line drawing and its graphic text, "Big Hat--No Cattle," but I'm told by my reliable source that the customary usage in Texas is my own caption above. In any event, there is definitely no humor to be found in Rich's piece itself, except perhaps for the pun-ish dedicated headline, "The Waco Road to Baghdad."

The White House keeps saying that no decision has been made about Iraq, but of course a decision has been made. Richard Perle, an administration Iraq hawk, gave away the game in yesterday's Times: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said" would lead to "a collapse of confidence." Translation: If Mr. Bush doesn't get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since — well, his father. Democrats, as timid in challenging Mr. Bush on Iraq as they were in letting his tax cut through Congress, keep calling for a "debate." What world are they living in? Mr. Bush is no sooner going to abandon his pursuit of Saddam than his crusade to eliminate the estate tax. These are his only core beliefs.
This is serious.
The only mystery is when D-Day will be. Given the administration's history, I'd guess that it will put on the big show as soon as its political self-preservation is at stake. Certainly the White House's priorities are clear enough. It has guarded the records of Dick Cheney's energy task force and the S.E.C. investigation of Harken far more zealously than war plans that might endanger the lives of the so-called real Americans who will have to fight Saddam.

[somebody else is not taking this Putsch-ring thing very well! This is from Mark Morford's email list]

To All My Friends Who Bought Me The Election They are Republican "Pioneers," the raisers of the early cash that made the machinery of presidential politics purr for George W. Bush as he sought and won the 2000 GOP nomination. Eighteen months after he entered the White House, President Bush is putting on a party [this past friday, just after his programmed Waco economic forum] for the hundreds of deeply corrupt and snickering, oil-drunk, pro-corporate money slugs whose efforts helped raise a record $100 million as he hurtled through the 2000 primary season like some sort of dense hunk of rock caught in a wind tunnel. More than 200 Bush Pioneers, most of whom snort powdered shredded accounting records for breakfast and directly equate that numbing and dead feeling inside their shriveled hearts with true success, pledged to raise at least $100,000 each for the Bush 2000 campaign, and never in your life have you see such a blisteringly odious array of corporate toe suckers, all assembled in one place like some sort of mutated WASP Godfather gang-leader summit, except without the sex and cool clothes and nice cinematography but with enormous amounts of body fat and trophy-wife swapping and inbreeding.

We did it for oil then*.

We're doing it for oil now.

Almost all Americans cheered our depredations then.

Almost all Americans are cheering the planned war now.

This is a democracy, we tell the world, so all Americans become responsible for the government's policy whatever its moral value.

If our policy does evil, or is even perceived to be doing evil, we are not truly innocent, and we definitely cannot expect to be perceived as innocent. In a democracy, we can't escape responsibility by accepting our individual (hugely various) amounts of freedom and prosperity, but rejecting "politics" altogether, and just voting once every year or so doesn't get us off the hook either; it's a messier business than that, but nobody said it would be easy or pretty. I notice we also show absolutely no inclination to give up our decades-long orgy of cheap oil and the militarily-enforced worldwide economic hegemony needed to support it. Think SUV.

Iraq is not a democracy, we (correctly) tell the world, so Iraqis are not reponsible for their government's policy.

There are therefore, strictly speaking, no American civilians, but on the other hand, there may, strictly speaking, be almost nothing but civilians in Iraq, even including its army, made up of men otherwise without hope or any livelihood.

The U.S. is in a very awkward position, but one largely of its own making. We have succeeded in making American civilians real and potential targets for the anger and resentment of people of other cultures, but we are unable to justify making the civilians of those cultures into our own targets, whether in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.

A state unable to access its military power and unsuccessful in employing its moral authority, could easily find itself disintegrating, especially if it is not able to address, or to even recognize, the needs of peoples outside. We don't seem to be doing well right now. If there is a war going on, we're not winning it.

Americans have to start operating with our minds and our hearts instead of our phalluses and our fears.


* "During the Iran-Iraq war, the United States decided it was imperative that Iran be thwarted, so it could not overrun the important oil-producing states in the Persian Gulf." [NYTimes]

I'm not a fan of marriage in any form, but queers have a right to be as conventionally careless and silly as anyone else. Still, let's not make it a requirement.

The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle, among major U.S. newspapers, have been publishing gay and lesbian unions for some time already.

So what the hell took the Times so long?

[message from Steve in Palestine as relayed through Donald here in New York]

Sunday 8/18. I spoke with Steve at 9 AM New York Time (4PM Palestine Time)

Still not much action to report, but lots of travelling. Steve says
his affinity group are all staying in the Balata refugee camp at
Nablus, where many homes are slated for demolition by
Israeli "security". Steve was on the road there when I spoke with

Yesterday Steve went with his friend Said to the West Bank. They
visited the family of Said's cousin, who was murdered by Israeli
soldiers. They spent the night there, and had lots of opportunity to
watch Israeli tanks drive around the streets of the village.

Today Steve got into Ramallah through a special route through a
cement factory, by-passing roadblocks. He met with one of the
leading organizers of ISM, and they talked about publicizing and
recruiting for an ISM action during the West Bank olive harvest:
Internationals are needed to help minimize shooting of farmers by
settlers during the harvest. The occupation and the settlers have
devastated the Palestinian economy, and
reserving/defending/supporting the olive harvest is crucial to

Steve was surprised at how bustling and animated Ramallah in contrast
with the curfew times.

Travel News: (this part is conversational notes)
When I spoke with Steve he was in transit from Ramallah to Nablus.
He had passed through the first check point. The check points are
typically humiliating, requiring Palestinians to line up and wait
huge amounts of time just to get from one part of their country to

After passing through the first check point, he got a cab. The
driver knew how to gain access to some settler roads, which meant
they could circumvent road blocks. It also meant some really
circuitous paths taken to get on and off the settler road. When I
spoke to him he was on his way to the check point for getting into

Steve comments that the countryside is very beautiful. But it's also
very strange to look out and see little Palestinian communities in
some places and fortified settler communities in others. The
settlements are in violation of a section of the 4th Geneva
convention, which forbids transfer of invading population to invaded
territory. Ironically, this section of the convention was instituted
in response to the [historical German geopolitical concept, Lebensraum especially as modified and implemented by the Nazi regime.]

That's all for now.


[not much today, but this is a short update of Steve's activity, relayed through a friend]

Just got of the phone with Steve. It's around 8 on Saturday morning.

He was at a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, on his way
back to Jerusalem.

He is meeting a Palestinian American friend who is arriving at Ben
Gurion, and they will spend the night in the friends village. Then
they will go to Ramallah tomorrow, and finally to Nablus.

There is serious need for internationals in Nablus, where there are a
lot of home demolitions going on.

Steve says the training in Bethlehem was very good, and that folks
heard shelling last night from the hotel in Bethlehem.

That's all for now. Things are mostly still just logistics at the

--and studly as well!

Jonathan Rosen actually does the kind of activism that the rest of us must do no less than support fully, if we can't expect to equal his own dedication and energy.

"We live among so much poverty in this city, and everyone should be uncomfortable," he says, smacking a jean-clad leg (he does this a lot) as he perches on a bright purple swivel chair in the [New York Unemployment Project's] scruffy office near Canal Street. "It's economic apartheid and politicians should be uncomfortable, and so should regular people. Any policymaker of any party who doesn't support the unemployed we are going to target."
The organization is his own creation. He's 23 now. Astoundingly, he already has ten years of social justice crusading behind him.

It's a great story, and I'm sure it's only beginning.

[The text of the caption is from an Israeli bumper sticker which is deliberately intended to reflect current Israeli confusion. The words suggest both that all of the West Bank and Gaza be given back to the Palestinians and that Israel should really "give it to them!"]

Ira Glass' "This American Life" went to Israel and the West Bank recently to see, after "two years in which each side has done terrible things to the other side .... what that's done to people living in Israel and the West Bank, and to see if anyone is feeling hope."

It was a great piece of radio journalism, and I link the complete program episode here, in case you missed it on air. Just click onto the "RealAudio" file icon below the program logo.

[I'm posting the verbatim texts of messages from Steve and three people travelling with him at this time.]

Hi all,

Four of the JAtO [Jews Against the Occupation] affinity group--me, Lisa, Jeremy, and Ryan--are now in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. A fifth member, Erica, is in Askar refugee camp in Nablus, where there has been a lot of shooting and home demolitions. We all are fine. The four of us are being trained here by the International Solidarity Movement tomorrow. We'll then be deployed to whereverwe're needed, and Erica will join us.

All for now.


Hey all,
I had a horrific experience at Newark Airport this
morning and thought I should share. I was tagged
while waiting in line for a direct flight on El-Al and
was pulled aside for a ridiculous series of questions.
An obnoxious security guard questioned me repeatedly
about my ethnicity, being that I have a South Asian
father and therefore an Indian last name. He got so
absurd that he actually began asking me if I was sure
if my father was in fact Indian. At that point I
became visibly flustered and he fed off that. He then
enrolled me in a Judiasm 101 course where he fired
questions about Judiasm at me for over 10 mintues.
Even though I have been raised Jewish he failed to
believe me and sent me out of the line while everyone
else got to pass on through without problems. I was
sectioned off and approached by two more guards who
asked the same insane questions and continued to
question the validity of my answers. I was then,
after an hour, escorted by a security guard into a
special room with all the other "brown" people on the
flight. All our luggage was dumped out on large
tables and thrown around. A security guard rifled
through my bras and underwear snickering at the guard
to his left. My bag was taken out of the room for
over 45 mintues and no one told me what was going on.
The guards laughed at our powerless circumstances
taking pictures with my camera of the other people in
the room "just to make sure the camera was working."
I was taken back behind a curtain and had to undergo a
body search (thank god I was allowed to keep my
clothes on). When I came out another family was being
taken in. The kids ran around while their parents had
to undergo the humiliation of the search process.
After almost two and a half hours of waiting I finally
expressed my concern at missing my flight. Finally a
woman decided to fill the paperwork required for
"someone like me". Three forms were filled out with
all my info, my luggage was tagged wtih special red,
high security risk, tags, and then I was escorted onto
the plane. A form with all my information was handed
to the stewardess as I boarded the plane. She looked
at me with fear and disgust and then let me on the
plane. I was seated in a special seat. When the
family next to me saw who I was they conviently moved.
After almost three hours I was finally in my seat
ready to go. I got treated like shit the entire


I have arrived safely to Palestine. My flight was
uneventful and I had no problems with security.

It feels very strange to be back in Palestine just 14
months after my previous trip. The first thing to
strike me was the amount of new construction occuring
between Ben Gurion airport and Tel Aviv. While I am
sure this is indictative of some political program I
have not been able to give it much thought and thus
have no particular political analysis to offer. Once
in East Jeruslum the obvious less bustle on the
streets is griping. The West Bank also feels very
different with less people on the streets and no
Palestnian security personel to be seen, who a year
ago were very common. Last year, while the Infitfada
was a year old, you still sensed a liveliness on the
streets but today you feel the eerie quiet of
desperation and hopelessness. (My apologies for this
scattered stream of obvervations. My section of future
reports will hopefully be more thought out and


We saw a demolished house today, two blocks away from
the Deheisha Refugee Camp we visited. The camp had
been visited by the Pope on his trip to Bethlehem for
the Bethlehem 2000 celebration, the effects of which
have now evaporated. The house was destroyed by
explosives, and not by bulldozers. The last remaining
wall, though crooked, held a Palestinian flag, which
rose above the rubble. We were told by a former ISM
organizer, someone now working for the Red Crescent
Society, that the owners of houses scheduled to be
destroyed will fly this flag. On this wall, it was
written in Arabic something to the effect of: You can
destroy our homes, but you can't destroy our spirit.
She also told us that this very large house was
destroyed because a man who was connected with a
suicide bombing, a man from Jordan, had rented a room
there for two weeks. This is something of the tour we
had today.

For myself, I have only to say that upon arrival in
Bethlehem I was set upon by a sadness not at all
different from the onset of altitude sickness in our
ascent from the Pacific coast to the upper regions of
Peru in July.

It is terrifying to walk through a town, Bethlehem,
deserted by curfew at 5 in the afternoon, to see the
graffiti of Israeli soldiers, leftover from the April
invasion: Stars of David sprayed on doors and
storefronts, "Israel" labelled in Hebrew to claim the
territory, the name of Rebbe Nachman scrawled and
extended across the entrance to someone's home, Rebbe
Nachman who said that the world is a narrow bridge
whose name appears so wide and distorted. I remember
in Sarnath, the buddhist pilgrimage town outside of
Benares/Varanasi, how Stars of David and Swastikas
were together posted on the front gates of the Tibetan
institute where I stayed. I remember how disoriented
I became. I suffered my first disorientation from the
signs of Jewish power long ago, when I was first
emerging from so many myths. But, perhaps for the
first time, today I saw this Star of David as having
nothing to do with me. It was realizing that the star
had nothing to do with me which is what made walking
through the gates at the Tibetan institute bearable.
But is the same realization now, when I am told at the
airport that this star has everything to do with me,
that, once again, the conditions of this occupation
become unbearable. And any sentimental tone I may
convey I now retract.


Neither Afghanistan nor the world needs this right now, but Afghanistan is about to explode, and with it goes the only (arguable) accomplishment of our junta's "war on terrorism."

But the man in the garden was worried. He was not an American. He was one of the "coalition allies", as the Americans like to call the patsies who have trotted after them into the Afghan midden. "The Americans don't know what to do here now," he went on. "Their morale in Afghanistan is going downhill – though there's no problem with the generals running things in Tampa. They're still gung-ho. But here the soldiers know things haven't gone right, that things aren't working.


The truth is that Afghanistan is on the brink of another disaster. Pakistan is now slipping into the very anarchy of which its opposition warned. And the Palestinian-Israeli war is now out of control. So we really need a war in Iraq, don't we?

And the backlash against the Americans is growing alarmingly.
The US special forces boys barged into the Kandahar guest house as if they belonged to an army of occupation. One of them wore kitty-litter camouflage fatigues and a bush hat, another was in civilian clothes, paunchy with jeans. The interior of their four-wheel drives glittered with guns.

They wanted to know if a man called Hazrat was staying at the guest house. They didn't say why. They didn't say who Hazrat was. The concierge had never heard the name. The five men left, unsmiling, driving at speed back on to the main road. "Why did they talk to me like that?" the concierge asked me. "Who do they think they are?" It was best not to reply.

"The Afghan people will wait a little longer for all the help they have been promised," the local district officer in Maiwind muttered to me a few hours later. "We believe the Americans want to help us. They promised us help. They have a little longer to prove they mean this. After that ..." He didn't need to say more. Out at Maiwind, in the oven-like grey desert west of Kandahar, the Americans do raids, not aid.

Even when the US military tries to bend its hand to a little humanitarian work, the Western NGOs (non-governmental organisations working with the UN) prefer to keep their distance. As a British NGO worker put it with devastating frankness in Kandahar: "When there is a backlash against the Americans, we want a clear definition between us and them." You hear that phrase all the time in Afghanistan. "When the backlash comes..."

It is already coming.

We've totally squandered our moral advantage and wasted lives and property to no good purpose--in fact to an effect which will be disastrous for us and the world.

The pizza was delivered this eveing by a tall, strong, young man with a distinct German accent. Young German delivering pizza in Manhattan in 2002? Shouldn't he be on Wall Street or partying on the Upper East Side?We don't know what his job means, to him or to us, but we wish him well, as we do all of the wonderful guys who work so hard peddling through the city feeding its people. Their kids will go to Columbia, or at least they will have a chance to do so if they want to. So we hope and wish.

Yea New York! Es lebe the pizza guys!

He was elected (by an overwhelming majority), he's an intellectual, he's savy, shows good leadership abilities, appears to be concerned for the welfare of his nation and of the world, gives good speech, shows charisma, and is an attractive, figure. He's the President of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, and he is just about the exact opposite of George W. Bush, from top to bottom, beginning to end, and there's the rub. Americans can't digest this.

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran struck out at President Bush and other senior American officials at a news conference here today, saying they had "misused" the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States "to create an atmosphere of violence and war" across the world that could sow the seeds for still more destruction.

Mr. Khatami's visit to Afghanistan, Iran's eastern neighbor, was the first in 40 years by an Iranian head of state. He warned that American leaders, in widening their campaign against terrorism, could unleash a chain reaction that would engulf countries other than the intended targets in a new round of violence. He implied, without saying so explicitly, that the United States itself could be among the victims.

"The events of Sept. 11 were horrific, but the American leaders misused them, too," Mr. Khatami told reporters gathered in the old royal palace here in the Afghan capital after talks with President Hamid Karzai. The attackers "did it because they wanted to create an atmosphere of violence and war in the world, but we know with certainty that in today's world all our fates are linked."

"Those who plan to launch this war shouldn't think that the effects will be felt only where they attack," he continued. "To believe that you can make people submit by force is wrong. We know that this approach only brings anger and destruction."

I absolutely agree. Does that mean I'm a part of the "axis of evil?"

I've argued all along that our response to the events of September 11 was and remains, aside from being just plain wrong, all out of proportion to both the scale and the continued threat that it might represent, but until I saw this report I hadn't thought of my attitude as related to my former career as a liability underwriter of insurance risk.

[George Mason University economist Roger Congleton] says the drama of the Sept. 11 attacks makes the overreaction understandable but that the statistical reality of the terror threat should be the key to allocating resources.

"When you have 3,000 people killed at once it is a very shocking and trying event, but that many people were killed in highway accidents in September 2001," said Congleton. "This is no less shocking for the people who lost loved ones."

These people are talking my old professional language--risk management!
John Parachini, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp., agreed that Congleton's approach of managing risk is important and should be part of the "portfolio of ideas" used to evaluate terrorism policy.

"One of the problems we have, particularly in this country, is assessing the risk of terrorism," Parachini told UPI. "We tend to exaggerate the actual impact because of the unknown nature of it. "


"At the moment we might be spending big, but we are not necessarily spending smart," he said.

[This is my friend's first, brief, report following his arival in Palestine. The text is that of his contact in New York who will regularly be in touch with Steve by cellphone while he's there.]

I spoke with Steve on the phone this morning (Wednesday 8/14). He
says he is fine and really has very little to report at this time.

He is staying in Jerusalem through tonight. Tomorrow night he will
be in Bethlehem, and the following night (Friday) in Beit Sahor.

Also, Brooklyn NYC Council member Bill DiBlasio* is part of a
delegation visiting Israel and is speaking this evening at the King
David Hotel. Steve plans to go and let DiBlasio know what he thinks.

There are lots of international activists in Nablus. They are
staying with the families of Palestinians who have been shot, to
protect them from having their homes blown up**.

When I spoke to him, he was on a dirt road in the West Bank, just
outside of Jerusalem at a settlement called Gilo***. Last time he was
there he got shot at a lot, but this time his group has found the
Israeli army camp abandoned.

* A number of Council members are currently visiting Israel, but there are no plans for any of them to speak to Israeli arabs or Palestinians.

** The Israeli government has re-introduced its policy of destroying the homes of supected "terrorists."

*** Gilo is an Israeli settlement on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem

These images are for all of the people who think Barry and I are crazy to take this car seriously. The cocoon-framed passenger pod remains intact, as it was designed to--by Mercedes Benz. [We are crazy about the car, but not crazy for being so crazy.]

We rented a Smart in Amsterdam in 2000, to get into the countryside--yes, there really is wonderful countryside, and seaside, in the densely-civic Netherlands. We both had a ball. I was astounded at how large and comforable the passenger compartment was; there is almost no suggestion of how small the car is while you are sitting inside, and it includes virtually every convenience and luxury you would want. On our rare stints on divided highways, we were able to cruise comfortably at over 80 mph.

The picture on the right shows where I ended up after maneuvering into a parking space I was afraid would be too short, even for Smart. I had thought I was almost equidistant between the vehicles in front and behind--until exiting the car. The only weird size sensation as a driver is what you get when you turn in your seat and realize that the car simply ends somewhere just behind your head, but even then you mentally tack-on some more bulk.

The only downside to the car I can come up with is the fact that it doesn't quite swallow the amount of luggage a couple of spoiled New Yorkers would bring for a much longer trip. Maybe someone can design a screw-on trunk, in the fashion of old touring cars, for the rare occasions when the passengers need more capacity.

Oh yes, one other shortcoming must be mentioned. It supposedly has no appeal for Americans, who, given their druthers, would really prefer a tank, even over the monster SUV's they currently worship. Effectively, this means Smart is illegal on our shores.

Elsewhere in the world it is a lovely, miraculous vehicle, and adorable as well. [Is an SUV ever an object of affection?]

I want the cabrio!

What kind of war is this?

Woman says airport security forced her to drink breast milk. But we still can't manage to get luggage screeners installed (best estimate, maybe sometime next year).

A woman says a security guard at Kennedy Airport forced her to drink from three bottles of her own breast milk to demonstrate the liquid posed no threat to other passengers.
In her defense, New York civil rights attorney Ron Kuby said, "The number of middle-aged, lactating white women who passed through al-Qaida training is probably negligible."

Meanwhile, at O'Hare Airport, like most sites, still without its quota of explosives-detection systems,

federal and local officials today heralded the deployment of 200 federal [biped] screeners in the International Terminal, the smallest and already most secure terminal at the airport. They called the move a bold step to professionalize aviation security and regain the trust of travelers.

"It will be obvious to both the novice and the professional traveler that the security bar has been significantly raised," said Isaac Richardson, federal security director at O'Hare.

Uh huh.

[I posted it as "politics." but should it really be "happy?"]

Somehow I missed this story until now.

Calls to the government's TIPS number, it was discovered this past week, were being answered by the "America's Most Wanted" television program. "We've been asked to take the FBI's TIPS calls for them," a reporter was told.

To find out [how the Operation TIPS program would work], I logged on to the Citizen Corps Web site, went to the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) page, and signed up as a volunteer. I quickly discovered that TIPS is having a devilish time getting off the ground. After an initial welcome from the Justice Department, I heard nothing for a month. When I finally called two weeks ago to ask what citizens were supposed to do if they had a terror tip, I was given a phone number I was told had been set up by the FBI.

But instead of getting a hardened G-person when I called, a mellifluous receptionist's voice answered, "America's Most Wanted." A little flummoxed, I said I was expecting to reach the FBI. "Aren't you familiar with the TV program 'America's Most Wanted'?" she asked patiently. "We've been asked to take the FBI's TIPS calls for them."

Has Ashcroft turned his embattled volunteer citizen spy program -- which has been blasted by left and right alike -- over to Fox Broadcasting's "America's Most Wanted"?

[Tom Tomorrow's penguin character said recently, in an entirely different context, "I should just retire now. Political satire is now officially redundant." This finally did it for me; I guess I'm slow.]

Barry says it. I can't add a word.

I'm no economist, although I did manage to make it through two semesters in the midst of an otherwise now-extinct liberal arts curriculum. I leave the serious dismal stuff to Barry, but Paul Krugman always makes things accessible to those who would normally not bother with economics at any remove from their own finances. Unfortunately, these days we all have more reason than ever to bother--and be bothered.

His essay shows why absolutely nothing is going to happen while those frat boys are running the show in Washington and in the board rooms, so forget about reform. Once again, real campaign finance reform is the only hope for our rescue. Nothing short of our liberation from corporate America will make a damn bit of difference, and that liberation just isn't in the cards we're being dealt.

Some cynics attribute the continuing absence of Enron indictments to the Bush family's loyalty code. But the alternative explanation is both innocent and chilling: Enron executives may have deluded and defrauded their shareholders without actually breaking the law. What Cisco did was definitely legal.

Since Enron collapsed, administration officials have insisted that no new laws are needed to reform corporate America, only enforcement of existing laws. The administration endorsed a bill imposing modest reforms in accounting only after doing everything it could to block it. And as soon as the bill was passed, the administration began issuing "guidance" to federal prosecutors that will undermine the law's intent on whistle-blower protection, document shredding and more. Officials clearly still think the old law was good enough.

But the Cisco story, like the absence of Enron indictments, demonstrates just how much self-enrichment corporate insiders can get away with while staying within the letter of the law. [Two years ago Cisco was the world's most valuable company, with a market capitalization of more than $500 billion. Its C.E.O. was among the world's best-paid executives, receiving $157 million in 2000. Today its market capitalization is $100 billion. Fortune magazine ranked the firm's management #13 in its "greedy bunch."] The handful of executives who have been arrested aren't masterminds — on the contrary, given the legal ways other executives got rich while their stockholders lost billions, the perp-walkers should be featured on a special corporate edition of "America's Dumbest Criminals."

Now the administration is sounding the all clear — we've passed a bill, we've arrested five people, it's all over.

[Among the speakers at this morning's administation-touted, Potemkin Village economic forum in Waco, Texas, was John T. Chambers, C.E.O. of Cisco Systems.]

No, Iraq did not throw UN weapons inspectors out of the country in 1998, and, yes, UN weapons inspectors did exceed their mandate sufficiently to collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to overturn the government. They left because they were told we were about to bomb Iraq, and they were indeed spies.

Facts are irrelevant to the warlords in Washington, but some of us prefer to relate to things other than myths. FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) alerts us to the sins of just one media outlet, USA Today, but it seems to me that these same false stories are ubiquitous in the American press and TV news.

An August 8 USA Today article that described how Saddam Hussein is "complicating U.S. plans to topple his regime" repeated a common myth about the history of U.S./Iraq relations. Reporter John Diamond wrote that "Iraq expelled U.N. weapons inspectors four years ago and accused them of being spies."

But Iraq did not "expel" the UNSCOM weapons inspectors; in fact, they were withdrawn by Richard Butler, the head of the inspections team. The Washington Post, like numerous other media outlets, reported it accurately at the time (12/17/98): "Butler ordered his inspectors to evacuate Baghdad, in anticipation of a military attack, on Tuesday night.

"USA Today wouldn't have to consult the archives of other media outlets to find out what happened: A timeline that appeared in the paper on December 17, 1998 included this entry for December 16: "U.N. weapons inspectors withdraw from Baghdad one day after reporting Iraq was still not cooperating." USA Today also reported (12/17/98) that "Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov criticized Butler for evacuating inspectors from Iraq Wednesday morning without seeking permission from the Security Council."

But there's more.
As for Iraq accusing weapons inspectors of being spies, Diamond might have mentioned that this accusation has proven to be correct. The Washington Post reported in 1999 (1/8/99) that "United Nations arms inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine the Iraqi regime."

USA Today was clearly aware of the spy story, since the paper wrote an editorial excusing it. Headlined "Spying Flap Merely a Sideshow" (1/8/99), the paper argued that "spying on Saddam Hussein is nothing new and nothing needing an apology. But the Clinton administration suddenly is scrambling to explain why it did just that." The paper added that the information gathered "no doubt found uses other than just weapons detection. That may not be playing by the books, but it's understandable and probably inevitable."

But this is all irrelevant, since both the Bushie gang and, apparently, the majority of Americans think it's really better not to let sleeping dogs lie.

David Budbill navigates a few of the world's religions to see how we got to where we are today and where we might go from here, in his latest notes, "Christians and the War on Terror."

When I was a student at Union Seminary in New York in the early 1960s, I had to take a church history course. Our text was called THE HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, a huge tome, which I retitled THE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST. What I learned from that course is that the carnage wreaked upon the world by the Christian Church down through the ages makes the Taliban look like bad guys from a skit on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

There's a strong desire in the United States these days to return to those golden days of yesteryear and mount again a Holy Crusade against the heathen infidel, a desire to return to the idea that if conversion of the heathen by introduction to The Book--The Bible--doesn't do the trick, then conversion by the sword is not only necessary but sanctified and Godly.

But both the message and the weaponry has changed since the last age of colonialism.
Here at the beginning of the 21st Century it's not so much The Bible that is "The Book" as it is the book of Capitalist Materialism and today the sword is not literally a sword, but rather more likely a laser guided bomb delivered from a plane so high up in the sky it is invisible. These differences not withstanding, a new Crusade has begun.

Whether it is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, The Philippines, Georgia, Palestine, Cuba, Libya, Syria or WhoKnowsWhereElse--the list of those included in The Axis of Evil gets longer every day--it is clear that this new Crusade, this Pax Americana, with which we now attempt to blanket the entire world, is a Holy War.

But hold, we can still visualize an alternative, if still only a dream, to the current horrible reality, which should have remained only a nightmare.

[the last few lines of Chapter 80 of Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching]

Their food is plain and good, and they enjoy eating it. Their clothes are simple and beautiful. Their homes secure. They are happy in their ways. Though they live within sight of their neighbors, and their chickens and dogs call back and forth, they leave each other in peace as they all grow old and die.
Budbill's regular "Cyberzine" itself assumes the very gentle, but indomitable, presence of the individual in the natural world of which it is an integral part.

I just can't resist adding one final, possibly very perverse, thought to the item posted just below. With apologies to the millions whose lives were destroyed by its most horrible works, perhaps in some measure we should be extraordinarily grateful that the Soviet Union lasted almost half a century after World War II. I'm beginning to realize that its presence and the rival power it represented was, at least in some respects, a very good thing, keeping us and the world safe from our very worst impulses and excesses until the end of the century.

The deadly-menace nutcases in Washington now say "we" (using whatever ordinary or special units we want to invent and use) have the right to go anywhere at any time to murder anyone for any reason, without telling anyone and without any ultimate accountability to anyone.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is considering ways to expand broadly the role of American Special Operations forces in the global campaign against terrorism, including sending them worldwide to capture or kill Al Qaeda leaders far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, according to Pentagon and intelligence officials.

Proposals now being discussed by Mr. Rumsfeld and senior military officers could ultimately lead Special Operations units to get more deeply involved in long-term covert operations in countries where the United States is not at open war and, in some cases, where the local government is not informed of their presence.* This expansion of the military's involvement in clandestine activities could be justified, Pentagon officials believe, by defining it as "preparation of the battlefield" in a campaign against terrorism that knows no boundaries.

*Can we imagine, the tables turned, how we would look upon any country on earth doing the same thing on our own territory, regardless of its excuses?

[I only note in passing that the NYTimes news story is exclusively concerned with the legal or precedent issues involved in putting such operations into the hands of the regular military rather than the C.I.A. The fact that we would violate every international relationship and every international law with impunity and without expectation of retribution is not discussed. So I will.]

While many would argue we've been in this filthy business for much of the last fifty years or so, I guess we're now going to be less shy about admitting it. What is also new is our confidence that we now have the absolute right to do anything we want to do, having been hurt on September 11 so embarassingly and to a degree we imagine unprecedented in world history. The bottom line however is that, for the first time since the beginning of the Cold War, no one can stop us, or so we think now.

I believe we are wrong to assume invulnerability when it comes to our latest plans for aggression. Aside from the immediate internal costs, economic and psychological, of this endless war to end terrorism, the world will be beating a path to our doors, and even beyond, not because they like us this time, but becasue they want to see us stopped, if not destroyed. No fortress America and no war against a virtually incorporeal foe can make us safe, but it can and will destroy our liberties and even our prosperity. The horrible violence Israel is suffering today, and that which it is visiting upon others, is a preview, and probably a mild preview, of what is in store at home for a rogue-nation America in terrible fear of its vulnerability and decline.

Will Congress save us from this stupidity, this horror? A fool's dream; expect nothing and we will not be disappointed. The Supremes? Their moral status may never have been so abysmal; their weight, if counted, will be thrown into the court of the enemies of the republic.

Travel adventures within the West Bank:

[The general secretary of the Tulkarm Blood Bank Society, Azzam Al-Araj, writes,] There is a curfew in effect in my town in Palestine. When I take the risk of walking to my office, which is about a mile from my house, I often bring my 8-year-old son, Mahmod, to show that I am not a threat to the Israeli forces in the town. But he does not always accompany me. In June I made it from Tulkarm to Toledo, Spain, to spend a month with my colleagues from throughout the Middle East, including Israelis, to talk about the future of civil society and governance in our region.

I am not going to describe in detail the killing of Palestinians, the stifling curfew, the malnutrition among Palestinian children, the house demolitions going on around me, or my wife's daily trauma when each member of my family leaves to go to work or class and she remains home to pray that we all return home safely. Instead, I am going to tell you a story about hope overcoming occupation. It is a mundane tale, really, compared with all that is happening here, and yet in a small way it is important.

In order to attend the international institute in Toledo, I left my home in Tulkarm on Monday, June 17, at 5:30 in the morning with the intention of taking a flight on June 22 from Amman, Jordan, to Madrid.

The distance between his town and Amman is 60 miles, but only for crows, these days. Azzam needed five days, and he almost didn't make it. The story which continues his account is anything but mundane, at least in a world we would want to live in.

Not really a news development, as the peace activists who have been regular targets of Israeli attacks know well, but it would actually be real news over here, except that it's not in the news. The reason neither the existence of such groups nor the official assault on their activities is covered by our media is political, not because it's too routine to merit report.

My friend Steve, an American leaving at this moment for his flight to Israel and Palestine, just emailed myself and others this comment, accompanied by a link to a story and dramatic photo from the Israeli daily Haaretz:

"If you're asked why Palestinians don't engage in
non-violent protest (they do), or why Israeli and
Palestinian peace activists don't work together (they
do), you can point to this not at all unusual Israeli
police/army attack on a joint Israeli/Palestinian
peaceful protest."
We don't get the full story here, in the country which virtually invented the free press.

[I expect to share with others, on this log, Steve's reports from the Middle East over the next several weeks.]

[Oh the times. Oh the manners!--Cicero]

Yes, it's come to this, but not a moment too soon.

The NYTimes Business Section today includes a lengthy piece on how corporate executives can survive in prison, "White-Collar Criminal? Pack Lightly for Prison." I suppose the customary articles on earnings ratios and the usual investment analyses just don't pack the journalistic punch they used to.

The most common advice for staying out of trouble is universal: do your own time. In other words, mind your own business, avoid confrontation. [David Novak, who spent nine months at the prison camp in Eglin, Fla., in 1997 for purposely crashing his aircraft and filing a false insurance claim] has assembled a list of basic rules of prison etiquette that he's published in a 200-page manual called "Downtime: A Guide to Federal Incarceration," for which he charges $39.95. The list includes: Don't rat. Don't cut in line. Don't ask. Don't touch. Pay your debts. Flush often. Don't whine.

Oh yes, for those who are interested, the article also gives us some insight into what kind of sexual threats or opportunities may await the white-collar criminal these days.
If prison camps are not "Club Fed," neither are they arenas for violence. Newcomers often are terrified by the possibility of forced sex, but former inmates and prison officials agree that sexual assault in federal prisons is rare, even at the highest security levels, and practically unheard of in prison camps. Former inmates say that while officially forbidden, consensual sex is common and available.
Hmm. On either count, it seems that at least as far as sex is concerned, the outside world just might actually be less attractive for a middle-aged suit, especially if the Times account includes what awaits women as well.

Besides biting the hand that feeds you, it's just plain wrong!

Madison Square Garden and the New York W.N.B.A. team, Liberty, continues to ignore, if not just plain snub, lesbian fans of women's basketball.

[One lesbian fan, Robyn Overstreet,] says Liberty and Garden management suppresses the presence of gay fans at games. Overstreet alleges that cameramen from the MSG network, which broadcasts many Liberty games, have told lesbian fans that they are forbidden to film lesbian couples showing public displays of affection.
Not all W.N.B.A. teams operate this way however.
The Los Angeles Sparks have signed a deal with Girl Bar, a popular social club. The Seattle Storm and the Sacramento Monarchs each had a Gay Pride event this year. The Washington team works with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay political organization, and other teams offer discounts for gay groups.
But in New York we are still shy about sex, right?
Some heterosexuals remain sorely uncomfortable with public displays of affection by homosexuals. Gays are often the victims of a double standard. Would anybody care if a banner was raised that read "Latinos for Liberty"? Probably not.

Some of the arguments against what the protesters did are just silly, such as how children who attend Liberty games and see lesbians will be traumatized or want to be become gay.

What would affect children more? Going to a Liberty game where fans are amicable or a Jets game where kids are exposed to violent, drunken brawls in the stands between male fans and the kind of language that would make Martin Lawrence blush?

Besides, while watching the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs in the 1990's, I saw Ted Turner and Jane Fonda kiss each other while they were sitting in the stands.

Now that is something no one wants to see.

Activists are planning a protest outside the Garden on Sunday, the last day of the regular season.

Reportage specific to the experience of the arabs around Har Homa (the project discussed below) concludes the article:

A small group of Israeli Arab and Palestinian workers is also living in Har Homa, in a plywood shack. They work and sleep in shifts, guarding the construction materials from theft. They wash outside, from a spigot, and they watch movies in Arabic received on a large satellite dish.

Under threat of suicide bombers, Israel has seized control of seven of eight Palestinian cities in the West Bank and placed them under curfew. It has dug ditches around cities like Bethlehem and filled them with barbed wire. Still, Israeli security officials say, thousands of Palestinians find ways each day to get into Israel, not, in their case, to kill others and themselves but to find work.

The Palestinian workers said they could make up to 100 shekels daily here — about $21 dollars — compared with nothing at all in the West Bank. As the conflict has ground on and Israel has sealed off Palestinian areas, the Palestinian economy has collapsed.

The men said other Palestinians did not criticize them. "Everybody knows that it's a settlement, but nobody asks you not to work," said one man, who gave his name only as Hassan, 30, the father of five. "They know the alternative: not to eat." Hassan lives half an hour away, but he stays at Har Homa for two weeks at a stretch to avoid getting caught.

One of the guards at the site, Salem Alkuran, 18, an Israeli arab from Beersheba, is quoted disputing the statement of a more irreconcilable compatriot, whose family owned part of the land before it was captured by Israel in 1967, "We can live together," he said. "It's impossible to move the whole country."

I know the biblical Tower of Babel was probably located near the Black Sea, but it seems that modern Israelis have decided to build a new one between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, on Palestinian land of course.

The complete story of this latest tower's origins and construction should give pause to anyone thinking of occupying this colonial outpost, and not only if they are superstitious.

The land belongs to the Palestinians and the labor is Palestinian, but the project is entirely Israeli, and for Israelis alone. The status of the Palestinians as virtual slaves of an occupying power could hardly be better illustrated than by this example. The people to whom the land belongs (as long and still recognized by the entire world) must toil to build this complex for its masters, because there is no other employment available to them under the rule, and the curfew, imposed by the Israelis.

[Foreign laborers] work alongside a few Palestinians who — conscience-stricken but desperate for the wages, understanding the conflict in their bones — sneak past the Israeli police, defying Israeli law to help Israeli contractors build what the Palestinians regard as an Israeli settlement on stolen land.

"My heart is bleeding," said Salman Jahalin, 28, his corduroys covered with the hilltop's powdery white dust. "I feel guilty for being here and doing this kind of work. But I have no other choice."

Mr. Jahalin, the father of four, is from the West Bank village of Zaatara. In addition to being a laborer at Har Homa, he has become one of its first — if illegal — residents. He sleeps most nights on the stone floor of a newly built storeroom rather than risk being caught and arrested by the Israeli border police while returning home.

This is a horrendous injustice, but is an evil whose consequences cannot fail to be thrown back upon its perpetrators. It's simply wrong, and not a good idea, for anyone who thinks ahead--or who even looks back.

Where is the authority? Where is the argument? These questions don't have to be asked, since there are no respectable answers. There is only power greed, mysticism, xenophobia and fundamentalism. There is no book.

Did the modern Palestinians cause the diaspora which drove Jews from Palestine and scattered the around the world? Did the modern Palestinians cause the holocaust which drove so many Jews to seek a Jewish homeland in their midst?

Some of you already know that Barry and I kinda collect art things--lots of art things. So, if I occasionally make a point of talking about one artist or another in the midst of my political diatribes and my almost-cute New York anecdotes (or whatever), I guess I risk describing the merits of that particular person's work as worthier than any not so cited. I want to make it clear that such an elevation is not the interpretation I intend, today or at any time in the future (unless otherwise specified at the time, of course).

Nevertheless, I am extremely fond of the work of Yashitomo Nara. I first literally almost tripped-over the images here in New York a very few years ago, and I haven't been able to escape his snare since. I'm sure this impact is only remotely related to the fact that the subject of so many of his creations, the cute, pig-tailed, pissed-off little girl who won't take any nonsense from anyone, so resembles the wondeful Sister from whom I am currently estranged.

Nara also does dogs. Today B and I walked over to Tomkins Square Park where a beautiful and moving, I guess cow-sized (not related to that horrible multiple-cow project of late memory) crying-dog sculpture rests in a very homey open pavillion, simply crying its eyes out for us and for its kind. I understand that the piece is intended to be a symbol of empathy and friendship, the tears a metaphor for the healing realized for an individual embraced by a loving community. Maybe that's too much to ask of a plastic dog, but maybe not.

I've always loved that park, but it hasn't always been easy.

Oh, the dog. He's leaving us after this tuesday.

The installation is sponsored by Haagen-Dazs. The work is destined to be installed at the Westchester Medical Center's new Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.

Nara Dog in Tompkins Square Park

Reuters caught up with the vacationing Shrub on a golf course today and shares their conversation about Saddam Hussein and Iraq with a public awaiting with baited breath.

"I described them [Iraq] as the 'axis of evil' once. I describe them as an enemy until proven otherwise," Bush told reporters after teeing off at the Ridgewood Country Club Golf Course.
[something like his administration's attitude toward U.S. government captives, American or otherwise--guilty until proved innocent, that is, if we don't just forget all about them altogether]

Asked if Americans were prepared for casualties in a war with Iraq, Bush--whose stated policy is to seek Saddam's ouster--replied: "That presumes there is some kind of imminent war plan. As I have said, I have no timetable.
[notice it's his supposedly nonexistent timetable he speaks of, not ours, or even that of the government in Washington]
"But I do believe what the American people understand is that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders such as Saddam Hussein are very dangerous for ourselves," he said. "They understand the concept of blackmail.
[well, our friends, allies and every other nation on earth knows that concept, since we have been employing the device rather heavily lately]
"They know that when we speak of making the world more safe we do so not only in the context of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups but nations that have proved themselves to be bad neighbors and bad actors," he added.
[is he for real?]
Asked if he was surprised he had not built more support for action against Saddam, Bush said: "Most people understand he is a danger, but as I have said in speech after speech I have a lot of tools at my disposal. I have also said I am a deliberate person."
"They [Hussein or Iraq] obviously desire weapons of mass destruction. I presume that he still views us as an enemy."
[where would they/he get that idea?]

He's getting better--and stronger!

[and donate money, if you can, since this stuff doesn't come cheap once he gets the heavy traffic he's now attracting]

[This is not a call for war of any kind. Far from it. I have no doubts that we aren't going to fix what's wrong with ourselves or anyone else in the world by slugging it out. The observation which follows is only an attempt to help us realize that we are not doing what we say or think we are doing, and that any truly appropriate remedy isn't even being discussed by most of us.]

In spite of what we are being told by virtually every media source, the U.S. is really not interested in war. We are interested in wiping-out people and countries and evil-doers, but not if it involves any risk to ourselves. A magic ray gun or the equivalent high-tech toy is what we are interested in, not sending our boys to fight anything like a battle, a war.

[We've already shown the world that the most powerful nation on earth is even afraid of being its police force, let alone its military defense. There are 45,000 thousand peacekeepers stationed around the world at this moment. Only 700 of them are Americans. We don't want to risk injury or death. Of course we also know now that we don't want to risk being tried for genocide while on such police duty, although apparently the brave little countries risking the 44,300 remaining soldiers don't seem to have the same concern.]

Obliterating cities and countries from thirty thousand feet is not war. It's playing god.

I've written before about the cowardice of a nation which is so afraid of its shadow that, after a single horrendous act of free-lance terror, it closes-down its mind and its democratic culture in favor of investing a nincompoop and his handlers with divine powers and a divine aura. We are now willing to give up everything for what is only the illusion of safety. We have ceased to have a backbone; we have ceased to think for ourselves; we have ceased to be Americans.

The condition may still be reversible, but at this time we are demonstrably a nation of cowards.

Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the global warming the Shrub tells us we just have to adjust to. Are there mosquitos in Crawford, Texas?

But for Daphne, it was all just one career move. She did what she wanted to do, and did it for a very long time, and then she stopped.

Daphne Bayne Hellman, the jazz harpist who performed around the world and for three decades at the Village Gate but who had a special affection for playing on subway platforms, died on Sunday at a nursing home in Manhattan. She was 86.

Ms. Hellman, who had played on the streets of Paris at a music fair as recently as June, was recuperating from injuries suffered in a fall last month near her town house on East 61st Street, her family said.


"She was just the antisnob, that's what she was," said Art D'Lugoff, who owned the Village Gate, where Ms. Hellman and her trio, Hellman's Angels, played every Tuesday for 30 years when she was in town. It was one of the longest nightclub runs in the city's history.

"She had money and she knew a lot of people and she got along with everybody," said Mr. D'Lugoff, whose club closed in 1994.


Her cluttered East Side town house, usually full of boarders, birds, dogs and litters of gerbils, served as the base for a kind of floating salon. And she was its musical Zelig, whose close friends included, besides Mr. Spoons, the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the artist Saul Steinberg and the writer Norman Mailer.

One of her long-term musical collaborators marvelled, "She loved to do whatever she knew you weren't supposed to do."

Well, if it's not total hell for everyone, it's still a very long way from the promise of this beautiful land, and it's very much a purgatory for all. Even if you don't believe in the concept of expiation, it's certainly going to be a long wait.

Anees, a dear friend of ours, recently flew from his home in New York to visit his Palestinian family in Jerusalem, where he remains at this time. When I asked for his permission, he said I could log this email report, and I expect there will be others. I believe that his account will at least fill some of the blanks left by our media's coverage, and that it succeeds in humanizing the consequences of our society's politics of indifference.

It is quiet and safe here in East Jerusalem. in fact, it is almost like living in an illusion since all the hell is happening elsewhere, just a few kilometers away. Here people stay home after work, if they can get to work at all, and watch a lot of satellite television. I like the Hair Bear Bunch on the Cartoon Network. My sister is coming tomorrow and my brother's wedding is on Tuesday. (There are so many people getting hitched. It is marriage season here.)

The other day my brother's friends arranged a very nice dinner for him and his wife-to-be and I came along. It was in a Maronite Christian monastery in the middle of the old city. Those Lebanese sisters sure know how to cook. Everything was scrumptious. I went up to the roof of the monastery before eating, and the view was just amazing. It showed everything inside the walls, yet was not so high up that you couldn;t see the details. It was as if I was seeing something with fresh eyes. Strange this time; as if I have been sufficiently 'away', mentally as well as geographically, to see things differently now. I notice more keenly the graceful old white-stone Arab houses. Even the men I find somehow more attractive than before. (Perhaps the arabophile homos I befriended last year have rubbed off on me.) But the rest I complain endlessly about: the bagel seller who touches the bagels and money with his bare hands; the vulgar signage on stores; the total lack of order in queues. Third-worlditis.

A couple weeks ago my parents and I went up to a panoramic look-out area on Mount Scopus, overlooking the walled old city. That was the day before the Hamas shithead blew himself up to kill the more enlightened of people--students, just a few minutes' distance away on the same hill. All around Jerusalem Israelis continue to seize key hills, key buildings. The nicer hills and the nicer old buildings. We later went to the old city to grab some Armenian pizza. As we were walking around, the muezzin started the melodic call for prayer. My dad, an atheist, smirked; he said something like, 'At least they can't do anything about the muezzins; they must get so pissed every time they hear it'. 'They' meaning the Israelis that are agressively judaizing the city, leaving us with bitterness and disappointment.

I might be stuck here for a while since the US consulate has changed rules. For Palestinians the INS will take 45 days or more to process the request, they said. Probably I will miss the beginning of the semester. Meanwhile, my parents are stuffing me silly with food hoping to fatten me up. little do they know of my hyper metabolism. It is the new yorker in me.

--for total hegemony.

You want our money, you want us to not make trouble for you? Then you'd better sign here right now, giving us the right to do our war-crime thing and our genocide thing without any interference.

The people who occupy the White House intend to buy-off the world's governments in order to spread the blessings of their regime to the rest of the planet.

The Bush administration, still wary of the new International Criminal Court, is trying to line up nations one by one to pledge not to extradite Americans for trial, administration officials said today.

So far, the administration has signed agreements with Romania and Israel. Both countries have agreed that they will not send American peacekeepers or other personnel to the court, whose purpose is to prosecute individuals for war crimes and genocide when national governments refuse to act.

And what do our sorta-elected representatives think of this?

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties said the administration's tactics were both legal and welcome.
Blinking toadies.

From TIME, for gawds's sake!

Nader's a saint. Alright, he looks like Abe Lincoln, but he really comes just after Francis of Assisi. Here he is on "CEO's behaving badly." [TIME's phrase]

For almost four decades, Ralph Nader has been the scold of corporate America. Now the man and the moment have merged as America recoils at CEOs' behaving badly. TIME's Matthew Cooper spoke to Nader about greed, corruption and why the presidential spoiler won't even think about playing golf.

Did you think there was this much corporate corruption?
No. And isn't it saying something that it exceeded my anticipation? It is impossible to exaggerate the supermarket of crime. It's greed on steroids.

Why didn't we know about it all sooner?
What amazes me is that there are thousands of people who could have been whistle-blowers, from the boards of directors to corporate insiders to the accounting firms to the lawyers working for these firms to the credit-rating agencies. All these people! Would a despotic dictatorship have been more efficient in silencing them and producing the perverse incentives for them all to keep quiet? The system is so efficient that there's total silence. I mean, the Soviet Union had enough dissidents to fill Gulags.

[straight from a Citizen Works email]

Citizen Works made national news last week by noting that during Vice President Dick Cheney’s tenure as CEO, the number of Halliburton subsidiaries incorporated in offshore foreign tax havens rose from 9 to 44.

Meanwhile, Cheney is supportive of a heavily expanded military budget, a budget that is increasingly being picked up by ordinary taxpayers who can’t funnel their money through offshore tax havens. And a solid chunk of that military budget will go straight to Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary that has a $1.8 billion contract to support U.S. troops through 2004. Despite being under federal investigation for fraud, Brown & Root is the Army's only private supplier of troop support services over the next decade, according to the Associated Press. The corporate state in action invites citizen action!

Check out Citizen Works in a Washington Post story.

Also, check out Reuters.

So it's on to Iraq! Tomorrow the rest of the world!

--anti the new Chelsea.

Our block of 23rd Street still has some of the most interesting shops and venues to be found in the City, although the latest developments here are almost surely harbingers of what is to come in this neighborhood.

On the south side, going from east to west, after the subway stairs there is a branch clinic of a large hospital; a (largely European-oriented, small-budget) modest-sized hotel with a new, small, alarmingly-conventional-in-appearance restaurant on the ground floor; a new, relativly upscale Thai restaurant, with an improbable massage/nails/waxing clinic above; the entrance to a large apartment building; a lively middle-eastern deli; a groovy hair salon; a humble arts supply store; a shoe repair and shoeshine shop operated by Central Americans; an on again/off again (now TWIRL) club; an acupuncture healing center; and a fishing tackle store (with occasional fly-casting demonstrations in the street).

Next there is an important guitar store; the Chelsea Hotel and, below it, Serena's bar; a tiny Greek tailor shop; a landmark Spanish restaurant; a serious comic book store; a tattoo parlor; a synagogue; a bank; the entrance to a loft apartment building; a 99-cent store (the new Woolworths?); a wonderful healthfood store and counter; the entrance to more loft apartments; another bank; a restaurant with bar below (sometime venue for Hedda Lettuce); a multiplex cinema; a very good Mexican take-in and -out next to a small stationery store, with apartments above both; a pizza and calzone shop; and, finally the shell of the store until recently occupied by a classic coffee and donut counter, with a bike messenger office above, just before the 8th Avenue subway stairs at the corner.

On the north side, beginning in the east again with the 7th Avenue subway stairs, there is a RadioShack and above it, a "multicultural unisex" beauty salon; a classic Andrew Carnegie library; the original YMCA (its future in question or cancelled); a Chinese laundry; a 1-hr. Photo shop where you can get your image printed on porcelain or fabric; a definitely-not-casual mens clothing shop (fifteen years ago a real, genteel ladies dress shop); a great mid-eastern take-out food shop with four or so chairs; the entrance to an apartment building; a tailor shop; a tax services office; a candy shop which sells cigarettes and sundries; a hair stylist; a great sewing supplies center; the American Communist Party headquarters, with bookstore (books now moving upstairs for lack of interest, or of walk-in business); various foot, teeth and eye doctors combined; a fine pet supply center (no pets); a vacant store; a tiny news and LOTTO store, missing only a pot-bellied stove for atmosphere.

Then there is a classic Italian barber shop; a dentist to the right and just inside the entrance of a large coop apartment house (ours), through which a fabulous garden can be seen; a beautiful woman selling incense on the sidewalk daily; a very bouncy quite-gay clubkids clothing shop (we thought it was tiny clothing for real kids at first); a traditional, very-non-chain copy shop; a record shop for collectible rock only (albums in window all faded to blue); a KrispyKreme (yuck) with wigstore above; a vacant store; a "coming-soon" tanning salon above an extraordinary and very attractive gourmet hot dog restaurant; a pseudo-trampy marguerita restaurant (nice picket fence around the sidewalk tree, but it's gonna choke the Ginko!); a totally boring representative of the chain, Boston Market; the block's very friendly (and more important than we think) sidewalk vegetable and fruit cart under an umbrella; the neighborhood GAP store, with a large more-or-less-straight-acting gym above; and, finally, the classic sidewalk newstand (with emergency umbrellas for sale if rain is forecast), just before the other 8th Avenue subway stairs.

Not a mall in the country can even think about competing with that!

Ok, I guess it's not so extraordinary a mix. You could probably make an equivalent list for any number of New York neighborhoods--except for the sacred Chelsea Hotel, of course. Ah, wonderful town.

Instead of boasting about what's on 23rd Street, I should be lamenting what has left 23rd Street, just in the fifteen years I have been here.

Until the late eighties, what is now the Gap was the site of Woolworth's, where they still sold goldfish, but turtles were already declared contraband. Yes, it included a full lunch counter with hot entries, oyster stew on fridays, club sandwiches, malts and what all (its demise darn near turned some of my older neighbors' lives upside down). That Thai restaurant with the not-so-modest prices was the site of ZIG ZAG, which attracted an attractive mix to its attractive premises. Great bar and great hamburgers (even Ethan Hawke seemed to feel comfortable there). KrispyKreme, the pseudo restaurant and the hotdog venue are on the site of several old brownstones filled with rent-controlled apartments.

My inadequate memory saves us all from a longer list, but it would definitely have some highlights. At least we still have the subway, to get us to Loisaida, Brooklyn or whatever.

--and a derogation. Yes, it's nice to know I'm no longer the only homo in Chelsea (as it so seemed to me when I first moved here fifteen years ago), but can't we attract at least some people who look like they might read a book once in a while or be able to discuss a social issue other than brunch, spotting or clubs? Guy Trebay writes about New York fashion as expressed during the recent extended heat wave, and he ends up in Chelsea:

"Society," Thomas Carlyle observed in the 19th century, "which the more I think of it astonishes me the more, is founded on cloth." Manhattan society, which the more one thinks of it astonishes one the more, is increasingly founded on no cloth at all. And few neighborhoods illustrate that better than Chelsea, where some people are so heavily armored in muscle that clothes can sometimes seem beside the point.

"There is definitely the gay ghetto stereotype of the muscle queen in Chelsea, but that stereotype is being broken," said Jesus Echezuria, a salesman at a popular Chelsea men's wear shop called Nasty Pig. Mr. Echezuria was referring to a group of men whose calendars are often marked in steroid cycles and for whom "liposculpting" and "abdominal etching" are by no means alien terms. If, however, the stereotype of Chelsea as a magnet for such men is dated, you couldn't tell it from the volume of cartoon action figures strutting the streets on a torrid Saturday night.

Conformity and uniformity is stupid and oppressive regardless of the form it takes. Sometimes I think I see hope for the neighborhood in what appears to be the growing visibility of non-whites, women, young kids and even straights, of all ages, but I'm not sure it's anything more than wishful thinking, so I still worry about the sea of dumb muscle. Help, we're drowning here!

The best discussion (and the scariest) I've seen yet of the issues raised by what appears to be the administration's insanely stupid determination to start a real war, one which might mean the end of the world as we know it.

"Is Preemption a Nuclear Schlieffen Plan?" asks a veteran defense analyst, who writes under the nom de plume "Dr. Werther" for the Defense and the National Interest Web site, which is widely read in defense circles. The article takes aim at the "vainglory, worship of force, and threat-mongering" that has characterized U.S. foreign policy rhetoric in the wake of the Cold War and which has been "pumped to epidemic levels" since September 11. Likening the "preemptive strike" policy toward Iraq to "Germany's neurotic obsession with hostile encirclement" by France in the early 20th century, Werther notes that Kaiser Wilhelm II did away with the careful foreign policy of Bismarck's era, taking instead as Germany's central military tenet the dubious idea that France would have no hesitation about violating Belgian neutrality. In the event of war, Germany would then implement the general staff chief Alfred von Schlieffen's plan, which meant first taking over Belgium and immediately knocking out the French.

Alas, it didn't quite work out that way. In fact, the Schlieffen plan "guaranteed that Germany would create enemies faster than it could kill them." (Unhappy with the Belgian invasion, in came the British, along with the French, who weren't knocked out after all.) And this, despite the fact that Germany "then possessed the most efficient, if not the largest, killing machine in the world."

An Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes describes it conservatively as an "unrelenting stream of bad news and broken faith," but anyone who has not lost touch with reality in recent years would describe it as an absolute disaster, but also the inevitable product of our national indulgence in denial, political stupidity and greed.

The country and all its people have lived through an extraordinary year, defined by searing events and inescapable symbols. People are haunted by the deaths of Sept. 11, the destruction of the World Trade Center and the still unsolved anthrax attack through the mail. This was followed by war in Afghanistan, and now the possibility of war with Iraq looms.

Enron came to represent a new kind of villainy, as corporate executives cashed out and employees lost their jobs and pensions. Arthur Andersen did more shredding than accounting. Ken Lay and a parade of other chief executives who had run their companies into the ground slunk across the news. The WorldCom scam was followed by a stock market crash and the shrinking of once-flush 401(k) plans.

But polls tell us that approval ratings for the silly puppet manipulated by those who have hijacked America are still in the sixty-some percentile. What will it take for us to actually come to grips with the incompetence of this regime and the threat it presents to our welfare, and indeed to our lives?

When do we march on the White House and throw the bums out?

[This post of a letter in today's NYTimes is for Otto, wherever you are.]

To the Editor:

In "Forget Ideas, Mr. Author. What Kind of Pen Do You Use?" (Writers on Writing, July 29), Stephen Fry said he did not know of any writers who used dictation. Barbara Cartland once told me that she dictated all of her books into a machine while lying on a couch. And then a "nice young man" came over and straightened out the English.
New York, July 30, 2002

I can't stay away from this one, for its effrontery and for almost perfectly representing the government and media's Big Lie. The oversized (but not for this tabloid) headline on the cover of the New York Daily News this morning reads, "UNDER SEIGE," referring to the latest deadly atacks in Palestine.

Every day, The Daily News' eye-catching front and back covers are the talk of the town. [this is the daily's own online description of its covers]
So a state which monopolizes all military and police power, which is equipped with just about the most sophisticated weapons available on the market today, which illegally occupies and controls every inch of Palestinian territory and which has effectively put every Palestinian under house arrest by closing street, roads and even fields, is described as "under siege" by the popular, yellow press.

We shouldn't have to take this stupidity or malignancy. It will ultimately destroy us and the world, if left unchallenged.

I've written to the offenders.

This litany of common charges made by the Israeli war party and their calm refutation by an Israeli peace activist may be almost two years old now, but remain key to an understanding of what has transpired both before and after October, 2000.

The Washington junta just wasn't interested in terrorism until September, 2001. They were only concerned about imaginary enemies, like those which would be the targets of their appalling star-wars-defense fantasy and their war-on-drugs fantasy.

The Bush administration sat on a Clinton-era plan to attack al-Qaida in Afghanistan for eight months because of political hostility to the outgoing president and competing priorities, it was reported yesterday.


The plan to take the counter-terrorist battle to al-Qaida was drafted after the attack on the warship the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000. Mr Clinton's terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, presented it to senior officials in December, but it was decided that the decision should be taken by the new administration.

[The Clinton White House outlined the threat in briefings they provided for Condoleezza Rice, George Bush's national security adviser, in January 2001, just before she and her team took over.]

However, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, was more interested in the national missile defence plan, and the new attorney general, John Ashcroft, was more interested in using the FBI to fight the "war on drugs" and clamping down on pornography. In August, he turned down FBI requests for $50m for the agency's counter-terrorist programme.

Even I don't have these problems with "country!" I mean, I have done some camping in my time, and I would never think I could "get away" from New York "an hour north of the city." Obviously that was the writer's first mistake. She should have known that you have to go at least two hours away before you begin to leave the pull and culture of New York, and then it's still only a rather conditional remove.

We knew that the air rising from dirt and pine needles outside the five boroughs just had to be cooler, and we wanted our daughter to get used to seeing whole constellations from beneath tall trees. And I'll admit that, in the back of my mind, I may have calculated that skipping town on weekends meant we were living in a terrorist target only five days a week, instead of seven.

[Here follows her account of her somewhat harrowing overnight camping experience.]

Soon after, we were glad to give back the car and relax in the safety of the city, where there were hot showers, local police, and people who could, if necessary, hear us scream. And, for better or worse, lots of eyes watching our backs, and watching the people who were watching us.

The Shrub administration is creating a new public relations office and campaign to help our image abroad.

I didn't know they cared one whit, but they still don't care about doing anything to alter our own attitudes or policies, those which have made us look like the real "evil doers," if not just plain laughing stocks, to those who would otherwise be our friends and admirers. No, they see the solution to the problem as just a matter of coming up with the right advertising campaign.

Graham E. Fuller, a former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council and a longtime Near East analyst for the agency, said that during years of living and traveling in the Middle East, "I have never felt such an extraordinary gap between the two worlds. . . . Clearly, in a region where we desperately need friends and supporters, their number is dwindling, and we are increasingly on the defensive."

"How has this state of affairs come about?" House International Relations Committee Chairman [the execrable] Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said in a speech last month to the Council on Foreign Relations. "How is it that the country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue has allowed such a destructive and parodied image of itself to become the intellectual coin of the realm overseas?"

Hyde shares a widespread conviction that a major part of the problem has been poor salesmanship.


Some critics question whether expanding and improving delivery will help if there is no change in the message. "If fundamental policies are seen to be flawed, a prettied-up package will not make a difference," Fuller told a recent meeting of the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

But I've saved your treat for the end! The best part of this log is the brilliant Danziger cartoon on this story. He gets it just about right.

Robert Reich's book is not just for Boston. It should be an alarm for the entire country, and not a minute too soon. Why should we care about what a candidate for governor of Massachusetts thinks? Why should we care about his call for America to quit making the poor poorer as the rich get richer?

''Should you care? Yes,'' Reich writes. ''After a point, as inequality widened, the bonds that kept our society together would snap. Every decision we tried to arrive at together -- about trade, immigration, education, taxes and social insurance (health, welfare, retirement) -- would be harder to make, because it would have such different consequences for the relatively rich than for the relatively poor. We could no longer draw upon a common reservoir of trust and agreed-upon norms to deal with such differences. We would begin to lose our capacity for democratic governance.''
Unfortunately, I think Reich is too conservative in his estimates. We have already lost that capacity, and the only question now is whether it can be restored.

The American Dream isn't even a dream any more for many Americans. They now pursue only a nightmare, and it appears neither they not the rest of us will waken from it soon.

Yeah, I know, easy for me to say, since I've never been and am now, since November, 2000, in no hurry to go, but there's another reason.

[Tim] McCarron and his supporters, members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, are calling for a gay and tourism boycott of the Sunshine State. Florida, they say, is in a "state of denial." It has the third-highest rate of AIDS infection in the country, and Miami has more reported cases than the entire states of Georgia, Maryland or Massachusetts.

Despite these figures, Florida recently cut $10 million from programs including Medicaid's Project AIDS Care Waiver Program, which supported people homebound with the disease. After the cuts, many were left without housekeepers, cooks or caregivers who used to help them to the bathroom.

At the same time, the state continues to be a mecca for gay and lesbian tourists, who account for 10 percent of the nation's $540 billion tourist industry. Ads from Miami-Dade and Broward counties run in gay magazines. In Broward, gay and lesbian travel accounts for an estimated $570 million of the county's $25 billion travel industry.

"The paradox is that so much money is being generated by tourism, but all this money left in the state doesn't benefit those people who are in need," says McCarron, who is gay. "The government says we can't afford to take care of these people. But they can afford to appropriate $20 million for a TV ad when there's no money in the budget."

The Republicans can't afford to pay for their own campaign junkets. They need our [Republicans don't pay taxes anymore] tax money.

CHARLESTON, S.C., July 29 — President Bush directed unusually harsh criticism at the Senate today for its version of a welfare bill, which he said would hurt the people it was trying to help. Almost immediately afterward, he collected more than $1 million at a Republican fund-raiser.

In an efficient and lucrative three-hour and 45-minute trip to this Republican-friendly state, Mr. Bush met in a private session with former welfare recipients, gave a speech at a suburban high school admonishing the Senate to pass his version of welfare reform, then spoke to 1,000 people at a fund-raising lunch for former Representative Mark Sanford, the Republican candidate for governor. The lunch cost $500 per plate, but the biggest contributors gave $10,000 to have their pictures taken with the president.

The visit was the usual presidential combination of political fund-raising and policy promotion, allowing the White House to charge taxpayers, not just the Republican Party, for part of the travel bill.


Mr. Bush spent an hour and five minutes at the fund-raiser for Mr. Sanford at the North Charleston Convention Center, where the president praised Mr. Sanford's character.

"I appreciate having a man who understands the money he's spending as your governor is not the government's money [my italics]," Mr. Bush said. "It's the people's money. And he's a man who set a good example."

Have these people no shame? How do they sleep at night?

Note, in passing through this news article, that the "presidential" part of this fund-raising trip involved his attempt to sell, as more helpful to those on welfare than the alternative senate form, his callous version of a new welfare bill, one which would force people on welfare to work 40 hours a week (the senate would require 30 hours). [Black is white.]

It looks like Mexico has the right attitude toward the Catholic Church: We'll take the fun parts and the pretty parts, but don't tell us what to do!

...there is a troublesome, yawning divide between the teachings of the church and the beliefs of Mexican Catholics. The divide is clear in surveys showing that Mexicans favor birth control, oppose religious education and are open to abortion.


"The church is always full on Sunday," [said a seminarian in a working class neighborhood of GUADALAJARA] "Rituals are easy for the people. But they do not turn to the church when they are making choices in their lives. And if they do turn to the church, many of them reject what the church demands."


Last week [the Vargas family,] David Vargas, 45, an ironsmith, and his wife Leticia, 42, invited the seminarian for lunch. The lunches offer an opportunity to spread Catholicism in an intimate setting, Mr. Barajas said. But the Vargas family seemed intent on giving the church a piece of their mind.

"Why is it that people who are divorced are prohibited from Communion?" Mrs. Vargas asked. "Divorce does not seem like a sin to me."

The aspiring priest responded, "Divorce on its own is not a sin."

But he was interrupted. "Why does the church consider it wrong to use birth control?" Mrs. Vargas said, turning toward her 23-year-old daughter, Janet. "Would the church rather we have children we cannot care for?"

While Mr. Barajas squirmed for an answer, Mr. Vargas tried to lighten the mood.

"My wife and I don't always agree," he reassured the seminarian. "We still believe in the Catholic Church. We just think it needs to grow up in some areas."

I've had my disagreements with the Post Office, and with Columbia University for that matter, but if both can somehow persevere through the worst environments nature and man can devise, I have a new respect for both institutions, and some hope we will survive this week's heat and even our current government.

The letters, from Columbia University in New York, have also been a sometimes tenuous thread between two worlds for more than half a century during which time this once cosmopolitan city was largely cut off from the West. Their uninterrupted delivery is one of the many small marvels of the mail, a testament to the reliability of the postal services on both sides of the Pacific.


The picture of the shadblow in the roof garden, taken yesterday, is already dated, since today I planted the entire "field" within the whiskey barrel, filling it with two kinds of ferns, epimedium, spearmint and bleeding heart. A cool woodland scene, visible from our breakfast room and kitchen, Barry's office, the north bedroom and both baths.

This page is an archive of entries from August 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

previous archive: July 2002

next archive: September 2002