September 2002 Archives

Yeah, the address in the caption above is intentional.

Paul Auster has a piece about the American heartland in today's NYTimes. It's a good read. This is an excerpt.

Crazy New York, inspiring New York, fractious New York, ugly New York, beautiful New York, impossible New York — New York as a laboratory of human contradictions. America has had a tortured, even antagonistic relationship with our city over the years, but to an astonishing number of people from Michigan, Maine and Nebraska, the five boroughs are a living embodiment of what the United States is all about: diversity, tolerance and equality under the law. Alone among American cities, New York is more than just a place or an agglomeration of people. It is also an idea.

On almost-the-eve of the big anniversary, I wanted to post the text of a letter written to the BBC by an activist friend of ours, an appreciative response to the broadcast company's inclusion of an American ex-marine's criticism of our impending war on Iraq.

Dear BBC folks,

I'm an American. There is much I love about this country and the ideas that underpin its existence. Freedoms of speech and the press are notable. Freedom FROM religion as much as OF religion is another.

We often don't live up to those ideals and indeed those fundamental ideals are being threatened.

[The American BBC listener] has articulated one of the biggest threats to the ideas of freedom we hold dear.

That threat in my view is the appointed President of the United States and his dangerous cabinet. Indeed, often times when I can stand to listen to this clumsy fellow speak, I am filled with a deep abiding horror that every time he worries about Iraq's ability to blackmail other nations,threaten them with weapons of mass destruction and force their will upon their neighbors, he should not say 'Iraq" but rather "the United States."

Indeed, with no evidence but an apparent desire to one-up his father in the urge to not be identified as a "wimp," this dubious president is about to plunge America into a horrible, costly and bloody conflict. Yet AIDS, the biggest pandemic in world human history is ignored and the World Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria is severely underfunded in terms of GDP spending. The environment is not only not protected but actively destroyed to sate the insatiable greed of some industries (often ones in which Bush finds personal profit). That insatiable greed of American corporations is upheld with tariffs that block access to our markets in ways that impede the development of resource-poor nations (e.g., agricultural subsidies that do not help our local farmers). The scandals that rocked corporate boards are slowly dissolving into the forgotten past while no real change is effected. The real criminals remain free while 2 million Americans are incarcerated, often for "victimless" crimes of a failed war against "some" drugs.

No one questions that Hussein is a bad man. But there are plenty of bad men and corrupt governments causing suffering and death to their own people.

In my view, left unchecked, Bush is one of them. And indeed, the pernicious policies of my country are often a source of great anguish and pain around the world; it is little wonder that so many hate this country.

By contrast, there is SO much that can be done for relatively small
investments. Means can be developed to improve health care infrastructures, provide clean water, help with family planning and stabilizing or reducing population growth, shifting to sustainable fuels, improving the environment and providing economic opportunities to the poorest in ways that can offset poverty.

The failure of the United States to do little more than pay a passing nod to these approaches while perpetuating gung-ho, kill-kill policies of Bush and his ARC of Evil (Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Cheney) give me such a deep pause for concern for my country that I worry about how much longer we can exist. The shifting landscape of hypocrisies and corruption that seem to more often characterize US government activities in the world is a direct assault on the principles upon which the US was founded. And it is a betrayal of the compassion I know exists in the hearts of most of my fellow citizens.

George M. Carter
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Barry and I will be in Europe for three weeks, and I will almost certainly not be continuing these posts, even if he manages to do his part for the public.

Check him out.

I'm sure I will feel the pain of withdrawal, but I expect to be compensated with certain worthy distractions there.

Back soon.

Last September, for the first time in at least 326 years, but certainly much longer, the dreamers stopped coming to New York. The City was physically isolated for about 24 hours, beginning the morning of the eleventh.

No one arrived bearing that special unseen baggage, that carry-on, which in these cynical times in this often most cynical of cities is a tenderness regularly on display. The dream-bearers couldn't get in. First time ever. Probably since the original American Indian crossed the land bridge looking for who knows what: food, shelter, safety. Something better than what was. A dream.
The bridges, the tunnels and the airports were soon reopened, and the stories began all over again.
In the blackness after Sept. 11, there were many small miracles. Surely among the wonders were those who decided to come to this city anyway, to arrive schlepping that special piece of bound-for-New York luggage. On Sept. 12, the bridges and tunnels were slowly reopened; two days later, a few planes took off and landed. And, undoubtedly, well before the tourists began to trickle back in a tentative stream, some gutsy someone packed up a dream and brought it here.

I know one 23-year-old who came from New Mexico six weeks after the attacks, because, she says, that had always been her plan. Come to New York and take pictures and write. She admits she called a friend who lives here and asked if he thought it was safe.

"What's safe?" he asked.
That made perfect sense to her, so she got on a plane and came. Now she lives in Brooklyn across the street from a firehouse, and she has become friendly with the firefighters whose silent witness seems to her an explanation and a bridge to all that happened before she arrived.

A man of 30 tells me he's from a small town in Iowa and has been waiting to come to New York since he was 11 and realized that he was gay. Easier to come out here, he thought. His mother, a widow, had progressive multiple sclerosis, so he waited until she died and didn't need him. A computer programmer, he got a job with a dot-com connected to a fashion house. His plane ticket would have brought him here on the afternoon of 9/11. He came a week later, and still regrets that he was not here before it happened.

The dream continues, for the guy from Iowa and for all of us, including those not yet here and those who may never get here, but who still imagine the journey.
It has always been the lyricists who remind those of us who live here that we are inside the dream, populating the mirage.

"Another hundred people just got off of the train," Stephen Sondheim wrote in "Company," and we nod and indulge a secret smile, because we're the ones who stayed, came in our 20's or 30's and proved we can make it here, so we can make it anywhere: thank you, Messrs. Kander and Ebb. And the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and New York, New York, is a wonderful town, as we know because Ms. Comden and Mr. Green told us. Born here or more likely brought here, we sucked in self-belief along with oxygen; that's the New York way. But it remained for this generation's balladeer, Bruce Springsteen, to sing of the boarded-up windows and empty streets in our city of ruins.

Not permanently, however. Among those first Americans, the wampum-makers, it was the custom after a battle to select a few defeated enemies as captives and bring them home to be adopted, replacements for fallen warriors. Such tactics can never heal individual wounds, but they do much for collective loss. Rise up, rise up, Springsteen admonishes the ruined city. Few of us doubt that the rising will happen.

How can it not? Another hundred people, another hundred dreamers, got off the train and the plane and the bus maybe yesterday.

While I was speaking during intermission to the two women who sat next to us tonight at the theater, one of them said that she really liked my button (the slash "WAR" button I've worn now for exactly 360 days). She enthusiastically accepted the duplicate I offered her, but when I asked her friend if she would like one too, she declined, also enthusiastically, even chuckling, with, "I would wear the opposite -- nuke em' all!"

Barry insists the second woman represents the real America. I guess I'm so out of touch with this real America, perhaps partly because the version I grew up with no longer exists, that I really didn't know that. In spite of my too obvious pessimism these days, I still don't want to believe it could be the case.

Unfortunately we no longer have the luxury of not knowing what the real America looks like. I expect we will all find out very very soon.

I was a Kiki and Herb virgin until tonight. I'm now a convert, and I welcome the mark and the burden that usually accompanies that designation.

The show at The Knitting Factory was a knockout. I told my friends that it was the best theater I had seen in, oh I don't know how long. My memory sags. I said "theater" because it was theater, yet it was in fact a pocket Gesamtkunstwerk joined with more than a dash of very spicy and quite smart political wit. Yea and a thousand times yea! (Barry said that he "thinks our drag sisters have MUCH better politics than the gay community in general." Too bad that, about the community.)

P.S. Herb is even cuter in person than in the photographs, and I would describe his piano and voice as just, well, perfect, except that the adjective might suggest something finite or closed. His art is definitely not.

kiki 2002-09-06 knitting factor

kiki 2002-09-06 knitting factor

kiki 2002-09-06 knitting factor

kiki 2002-09-06 knitting factor

kiki 2002-09-06 knitting factor

Are there really people out there? Maybe there is still hope, but we're going to have to let each other know we're here. Don't hide under a basket!

If you scratch the surface of the poll numbers about Bush and Ashcroft's overwhelming support, you get down to a lot of people with a lot of questions. Some of them are afraid that they are alone in what they are thinking. What it takes to get them excited and to get them involved is for them to see someone standing up so that they will know they are not alone."
A member of a Madison, Wisconsin, school board who took a supposedly very unpopular position and survived attests that Americans are ready for the debate being denied us by Washington.
"If the last year taught us anything, it's this: Yes, of course, if you step out of the mainstream you will get called names and threatened. But you will also discover that a lot of Americans still recognize that dissenters are the real defenders of freedom."

Some of you may not have heard, but in the last few years it's become clear that she's made what appears to be a 180 degree turn from her left-baiting personna. We can use her eloquence.

This morning Arianna Huffington describes the Bushies' latest economic relief program: more tax cuts for the rich, or "Trickle Down Trickles Up Again."

How did the free-market ideology of the Reagan revolution come to be the political consensus of our times? How did we get suckered by the fairy tale that as long as people kept shopping, the market could keep our prosperity going as far as the eye could see? And that by voting with our credit cards, we could spread the gospel of prosperous democracy to any corner of the earth where American products were made or consumed. Like all fairy tales, it's a nice story. But it's time to acknowledge that this one didn't have a happily-ever-after ending.


It would take a while -- and the fall of Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers, Sam Waksal, et al -- before the invisible hand was exposed as a pickpocket. But even after the free market parade had to be called off on account, not of rain, but of fraud, we have begun to hear the trickle-down marching bands warming up in the distance, ready to play their familiar siren songs. It's time we resuscitated Mark Russell's definition of trickle-down as "something that benefits David Rockefeller now and Jay Rockefeller later." Or, to be a bit more current, George Herbert Walker Bush then, and George Walker Bush now.

Mark Morford begins his characteristically-restrained critique (just kidding!) of the appalling usurper of the office of U.S. vice-president,

We have a war-crazed vice president. An addict, a verifiable military junkie. Many of us perhaps do not fully realize this.

We are very unfortunately saddled with one of the least charismatic least interesting most intellectually acrimonious and most desperately hawkish, violence-hungry, soulfully inscrutable vice president in decades, and he wants this country at war, now and always. Oh yes he does.

Yes, he's supposedly the second most powerful man in the world, but he essentially controls every decision made by the most powerful man in the world [Morford cautions, "which hence makes him the de facto most powerful man in the world shhh don't tell Geedubya or he might have a tantrum"]
And we have to realize there is no one in the upper Bush administration who is acting as a balancing voice, who is calling for peace, perhaps urging a major rethinking of our oil and military policies, someone of significant intellectual depth and compassion who understands the nuances of our voracious foreign policy and if you said Colin Powell you haven't seen the pictures, all slumped shoulders and vacant eyes and impotent trips to Israel, emasculated and exhausted. Powell is Cheney's favorite footstool.

So here is Dick Cheney, howling into a vacuum, calling for more and increased violence and major expenditure and further stirring of anti-US hate in the face of almost unanimous global opposition. And Rumsfeld is grinning like mad.

And Bush, well, he's on the horn to his dad every night, slumping in the Oval Office chair as the old man advises and snickers and grumbles about old grudges against Saddam and how we need to rip him a new one dag-nabbit. Poor Dubya is getting it from both sides, his two main puppeteers, urging war, as the world frowns, shakes its head, sighs.

We lost. We didn't know we were at war. We didn't even think there was an enemy. The weapons were all in the other side's hands, but since we were thoroughly brain-washed before hostilities began in earnest, we wouldn't have raised a hand against the enemy even if we had been armed.

Incredibly, the victors still want more even now.

Some days, you have to believe right-wing ideologues have lost touch with reality completely. Their latest proposal to prevent future Enrons is -- ta-da! -- cut the capital gains tax.

And exactly what does that do to prevent future Enrons? Nothing. Except Ken Lay won't have to pay taxes on the stock he sold while his company cratered and his employees watched their life savings disappear.

Molly Ivins is mad as hell!
It's amazing to me that only populists are ever accused of class warfare. Talk about losing a grip on reality. I'll tell you what class warfare is:

When the Gingrich Republicans mandate that the IRS spend more of its resources auditing working-class people who get the Earned Income Tax Credit than it does auditing millionaires who use countless tax evasion schemes.

In 1999, the average after-tax income of the middle 60 percent of Americans was lower than in 1977. The 400 richest Americans between 1982 and 1999 increased their average net worth from $230 million to $2.6 billion, over 500 percent in constant dollars.

By 1999, over one decade, the average work year had expanded by 184 hours. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the typical American worked 350 hours more per year than the typical European.

Less than half of all Americans have any pension plan other than Social Security. Wage-earners in the United States collectively ended the decade with less pension and health coverage, as well as with the Industrial West's least amount of vacation time, shortest maternity leaves and shortest average notice of termination. Among the Western nations, the United States has the highest levels of inequality.

From 1980 to 1999, the 500 largest U.S. corporations tripled their assets and their profits, and enlarged their market value eightfold, as measured by stock prices. During the same period, the 500 corporations eliminated 5 million American jobs.

This is class warfare. (All these figures are from Kevin Phillips' excellent book, Wealth and Democracy.)

There is, unfortunately, almost no precedent for the kind of attack this former President today directed against the current White House occupants.

Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except, at times, within the administration). [President Carter here describes "a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism."]


Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel.


While the president has reserved judgment, the American people are inundated almost daily with claims from the vice president and other top officials that we face a devastating threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and with pledges to remove Saddam Hussein from office, with or without support from any allies. As has been emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and by responsible leaders of former administrations and incumbent officeholders, there is no current danger to the United States from Baghdad.


We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously negotiated international accords.


Tragically, our government is abandoning any sponsorship of substantive negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli action in the occupied territories and to condemn and isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian enclaves shrink.


Belligerent and divisive voices now seem to be dominant in Washington, but they do not yet reflect final decisions of the president, Congress or the courts. It is crucial that the historical and well-founded American commitments prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment and international cooperation.

Former president Carter is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

We don't want to speak out and we don't want to listen in.

Hlynur Hallsson arrived this summer in Marfa, Tex., with plans, as he put it, to stimulate discussion.

[The first exhibit which the artist assembled at the very respectable Chinati Foundation] — a compilation of other artists' work — did not stir much reaction. His second, four graffiti-style sentences scrawled on a wall, created an uproar.

"The real axis of evil are Israel, USA and the UK," Mr. Hallsson, an artist from Iceland, wrote in English and Spanish. "Ariel Sharon is the top terrorist. George W. Bush is an idiot. And Iceland is banana republic number one."

Hallsson is an attractive young conceptual artist [too bad only the NYTimes hard copy includes pictures] with growing visibility in Iceland and elsewhere in Europe.
He said the first three statements did not reflect his opinions but were taken from comments he had heard in Europe or had seen in the European press. He said the fourth, about Iceland, came from a quotation in an article in The New York Times about plans to build a huge power plant in his home country.

Mr. Hallsson said that he realized the statements were provocative, but that he hoped they would lead to discussion about how the rest of the world sometimes views the United States.

The town went nuts! The Foundation's survival instincts led to the covering of the windows and the artist's proposal for a second part of the exhibit.
"The Axis of Evil is North Korea, Iraq and Iran," he wrote this time, painting over the original statements. "Osama bin Laden is the top terrorist. George W. Bush is a good leader. And Iceland is not a banana republic."

He said of the change, "I just wrote what people want to read."
There was virtually no discussion this time; almost no one came. The Mayor said few locals went because they considered the change patronizing.
Mr. Hallsson left on Tuesday to return to Iceland. His departure was planned before the controversy, and he said he wished he could have stayed "for further discussion."

He also said he was startled that people were so quick to try to clamp down on controversial speech.

"I think quite many Americans don't have interest in free speech," Mr. Hallsson said. "The majority, I don't know. My experience was, quite many people would be happy to give that one away."

We love Paul Rudnick! This week in The New Yorker he writes a helpful memo to the FBI which should assist them in an investigation of the putative Gay Mafia.

RE: The F.B.I.'s racketeering division recently infiltrated the nation's alleged Gay Mafia, with operatives working under cover as vicious choreographers, neo-con columnists, and chatty houseboys. These moles have discovered many significant differences between this far-reaching criminal enterprise and its heterosexual counterpart.
Selections from his crimebusters-handy list:
3. High-ranking members of the Gay Mafia communicate almost exclusively by phone. Code phrases include "Stop it," "So when I ran into him I was very so-fine-we-had-sex-so-what-I-still-hate-you," and "Oh, she's one to talk."

7. The Gay Mafia's links to the Catholic Church are extensive, and most often begin with the phrase "Jimmy, did you know that the Apostles liked to wrestle?"

10. The Gay Mafia has its origins in ancient Greece, when Don Plato first remarked to a group of graceful youths, "I am so over Carthage." [he shoulda written, "Sparta"]

14. The Gay Mafia is assumed to have connections with dockworkers and longshoremen, because they're just so damn hot.

17. The Transgendered Mafia is becoming a major player, mostly because they're so tall.

but AIDS activism threatens governments, including China now.

The news item is now about a week old. A major Chinese AIDS activist, Dr. Wan Yanhai, "disappeared" sometime after August 24. Relatives and human rights groups believe he has been detained by the police.

I delayed posting anything last week, because I was expecting immediate follow-up news or, absent news, a large outcry in the world's press. But nothing.

The activist, Wan Yanhai, is a former Chinese health official who was fired after he took up the causes of gay rights and AIDS in the mid-1990's. He has been involved in various small but influential projects in the last few years, including a Web site about H.I.V. and the creation of small support groups for patients.

He has also been instrumental in exposing a devastating AIDS epidemic in central China that is centered on Henan Province, where as many as a million poor farmers were infected through unsanitary blood collection schemes.

We don't know anything about his whereabouts, or the circumstances of his disapparance, but we do know a lot about him, and it's awesome. This is just for starters:
A small, soft-spoken man who generally works behind the scenes, Dr. Wan nonetheless absorbed some of the confrontational style of American AIDS activists during a 1997 fellowship in Los Angeles.

At a regional AIDS meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malyasia, two years ago, Dr. Wan rose from the audience to confront China's vice minister of health, who was at the podium.

More recently he has been involved in creating support and counseling groups for people with AIDS in rural China.

Last week, the Health Ministry received two petitions, which Dr. Wan's group had helped prepare, from farmers suffering from AIDS.

"We demand that the government provide free medicine, or medicine we can afford, and we demand the government produce copies of Western medicines as quickly as possible," read one petition, signed by 30 patients from Sui County in Henan.

Sometimes I feel like I'm doing a sort-of Reader's Digest thing on this weblog, condensing other sources' feelgood and feelbad items for easier accessibility. Well, Harper's goes one step further with it's "Weekly Review," where in a few short minutes you can digest the events of the last seven days. The experience is frighteningly comic--or comically frightening.

For those who aren't enthusiasts already, here is a link to one of the most dependably entertaining (and depressing) sort-of blogs around.

Most of its text reduces complicated stories to one sentence, so these lines pulled from the run-on paragraphs are not typical, only quite rewarding.

... Rumsfeld compared President Bush to Winston Churchill and said that Saddam Hussein was acting like Adolf Hitler. British historians begged to differ. "Churchill is the only Englishman any of them has ever heard of, with the possible exception of Shakespeare if they were hard-working at school," said Ben Pimlott, warden of Goldsmiths College, London. "In fact, there is no comparison between Hitler and Saddam Hussein, who is not an expansionist within the region. Americans admire Churchill's brilliance, his language and oratory, his feline style. But Bush is a Neanderthal with no knowledge of the world. Churchill had a great deal of knowledge." ...
Hey, if we really wanted a president with a brain instead of a cabbage, we probably could have found one!

Sorry. Yeah, it's sentimental I guess, but it's really ok, because they're tough, these guys, and at least one gal, who looks like she could handle anything--and probably has had to.

It's a wonderful piece [with a slideshow]. Don't miss Firefighter Augie Simoncini [unfortunately no photo].

But for all the ribbing, most firefighters took their portraits quite seriously. Andy Johnson, a first-year firefighter, or probie, at Engine Company 278 in Sunset Park, initially shrugged off the suggestion that he have his picture taken. But once he agreed, he quickly became engrossed in composing the photograph.

"I can't see the tool in this shot," he said, looking at the small digital screen on the back of Ms. Yanes's camera. In the shot he is sitting on the fender of the engine with an ax slung over one shoulder. "Can we reshoot it?"

"Of course" is her reply. "Let's do it again."

The photos of firefighters who died on Sept. 11 that were released to the news media were official portraits in dress uniform or were "probie shots," taken of young firefighters when they first join the department. Few firefighters have pictures of themselves in their working gear, the way they would like to be depicted.

"We have this picture they take of us in probie school," said Lt. Bob Hartie, a firefighter in Brooklyn. "And they told us, `You never want to see this picture in the paper, because if you do, it means you are dead.' So guys are kind of superstitious about that picture. It's nice to have something else."

Yup. It appears on the "Styles and Fashion" page of the paper's site. It's the first for the NYTimes and it's a nice story, so here it is.

The couple met in October 1992 in Washington, where Mr. Goldstein was working as a television news producer and Mr. Gross as a consultant. Mr. Goldstein was one of 35 respondents to a personal ad that Mr. Gross had placed in Washington City Paper. It read: "Nice Jewish boy, 5 feet 8 inches, 22, funny, well-read, dilettantish, self-deprecating, Ivy League, the kind of boy Mom fantasized about." They arranged to meet one evening at Kramerbooks & Afterwords, and had their second date the next night.

That Thanksgiving, Mr. Gross went home to visit his parents. "My mom said, `You seem like everything's great,' " he recalled. " `You seem like you're in love.' I said, `I am.' They said, `That's great.' I said, `His name is Steven.' My mother said, `Oy,' and was silent for a while."

Both sets of parents now support the relationship.

While Mr. Gross was in Thailand, Mr. Goldstein had a $1,500 telephone bill one month. They were apart again while Mr. Gross was in graduate school. Finally, in 1998, they moved to New York together.

They postponed a commitment ceremony until leaders of Reform Judaism had voted to support rabbis who perform same-sex unions and Vermont had given legal recognition to civil unions, both events in 2000.

"Sept. 11 accelerated the process," Mr. Goldstein said. "We all began to think of our own mortality."

[The print version on sunday included a double photo of the couple.]

We joined our handsome blog-fellows at The Abbey last night, but we missed the women this time!

The Driggs Street boite is way cool, but if we have a community as bloggers it's all about the fact that we talk and listen so well. We might do better without so much competition from the music.

One humble suggestion, which should appeal to all genders, is The Excelsior in Park Slope.

See evidence for the gang's loveliness in the images below.

Barry and Sparky

Dan'l and John

Sam and Brian

[I'm excerpting sections from a contributing OP-ED piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski in yesterday's NYTimes. The complete text fleshes out the skeletal, but succinct, argument posted here.]

Missing from much of the public debate is discussion of the simple fact that lurking behind every terroristic act is a specific political antecedent. That does not justify either the perpetrator or his political cause. Nonetheless, the fact is that almost all terrorist activity originates from some political conflict and is sustained by it as well. That is true of the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, the Basques in Spain, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Muslims in Kashmir and so forth.

In the case of Sept. 11, it does not require deep analysis to note — given the identity of the perpetrators — that the Middle East's political history has something to do with the hatred of Middle Eastern terrorists for America. The specifics of the region's political history need not be dissected too closely because terrorists presumably do not delve deeply into archival research before embarking on a terrorist career. Rather, it is the emotional context of felt, observed or historically recounted political grievances that shapes the fanatical pathology of terrorists and eventually triggers their murderous actions.


Yet there has been a remarkable reluctance in America to confront the more complex historical dimensions of this hatred. The inclination instead has been to rely on abstract assertions like terrorists "hate freedom" or that their religious background makes them despise Western culture.

To win the war on terrorism, one must therefore set two goals: first to destroy the terrorists and, second, to begin a political effort that focuses on the conditions that brought about their emergence. That is what the British are doing in Ulster, the Spaniards are doing in Basque country and the Russians are being urged to do in Chechnya. To do so does not imply propitiation of the terrorists, but is a necessary component of a strategy designed to isolate and eliminate the terrorist underworld.


A victory in the war against terrorism can never be registered in a formal act of surrender. Instead, it will only be divined from the gradual waning of terrorist acts. Any further strikes against Americans will thus be a painful reminder that the war has not been won. Sadly, a main reason will be America's reluctance to focus on the political roots of the terrorist atrocity of Sept. 11.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser in the Carter administration.

Maybe the biggest downer of this argument for giving Americans the down-time which Europeans, even the Japanese, enjoy in quantities denied us you here is the part about our greed for consumption being the engine of our own social destruction. You mean we can't just blame it on the bosses, the ones who take as much time off as they please, emulating or being emulated by the august one in the White House, notorious for his commitment as a leisure enthusiast?

But four weeks off in one chunk? Real people have to really struggle to get more than one week at a time, always risking being charged with a different kind of lack of commitment. The French, and most Europeans, routinely claim eight weeks and are now talking about ten.

As long as we're scrutinizing the relationship between companies and their shareholders and pensioners [this year], how about looking at the inflexible work norms imposed on workers?

During the last six months, a national "Take Back Your Time Day" movement has gained momentum, urging Americans to take the day off on Oct. 24, 2003. The date, coming nine weeks before the end of the year, symbolizes the additional nine weeks Americans work in comparison to Continental Western Europeans.

In the end, even more than work schedules, incomes and employment are at stake: our choices affect the rest of the world. For the last half century, America's tendency has been to consume more, rather than work less. This propensity to work is central to why the United States is among the world's wealthiest nations as well as the unrivaled leader in resource depletion, carbon-dioxide emissions and environmental impact. By next Labor Day, perhaps, the message will be that we're slowing down, sharing the work and consuming a little less.

New York is prett much the nation's capital, if not the capital of the world, in many ways, but until 212 years ago it was in actual fact the political capital of the new nation.

Now they're all coming back, but thankfully, only for a day.

Congress [remember Congress?] will be meeting in New York on Friday for the first time since 1790, when George Washington was president and New York was the capital of the young United States.

Appropriately enough, the session will be held in Federal Hall, located on the site of the original Federal Hall, which served as the temporary home of the House and Senate for two years in the 18th century. The building had been New York’s City Hall, but was on temporary loan to Congress. It was also the site where Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789.

All the major players lived nearby: Washington on Cherry Street and later at 39 Broadway; Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on Wall Street and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson on Maiden Lane. John and Abigail Adams were up in SoHo, on an estate called Richmond Hill.

New York didn’t have a very long run as the capital, however. There was a lot of resentment toward New York as a money-grubbing, immoral and "too British" city [sorry, chaps]. Jefferson called it "a cloacina of all the depravities of human nature."

In the end, such sentiments were not the reason our fair city was abandoned for a healthier home in a Maryland swamp. The move turned on issues of big money and regional rivalries.

John Adams' wife, bless her heart, although not a New Yorker herself, seems to have understood this city better than some of her contemporaries.

It was Abigail Adams who said it best though: She loved Richmond Hill and while she was fine with moving to Philadelphia, [temporary capital while the D.C. was being built] she understood that "when all is done, it will not be Broadway."

It's not the barbeque, and it's certainly not the traffic. It was born as an attempt to appease the working people of America. [Remember the Pullman strike in history class?] Unfortunately it seems to have worked too well.

The observance of Labor Day began over 100 years ago. Conceived by America's labor unions as a testament to their cause, the legislation sanctioning the holiday was shepherded through Congress amid labor unrest and signed by President Grover Cleveland as a reluctant elction-year compromise.
Soon after, when the entire nation became thoroughly frightened by the bugbear of socialism and communism, the movement was de-radicalized. The real Left was gradually marginalized and almost totally eliminated from American culture and society. The workers' movement itself became middle class, before it acquired the material benefits and political power which that adjustment should have delivered. And there it languishes.
In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."

Almost a century since Gompers spoke those words, though, Labor Day is seen as the last long weekend of summer rather than a day for political organizing. In 1995, less than 15 percent of American workers belonged to unions, down from a high in the 1950's of nearly 50 percent, though nearly all have benefited from the victories of the Labor movement.

Happy Labor Day, but don't forget.

Are we better off knowing that they don't know what they are doing, or does that make them more dangerous?

Already under fire from abroad, the Bush administration was criticized across the political spectrum at home on Sunday for an Iraq policy in disarray, with top advisers seemingly at odds.
Some of the evidence includes:
Twice last week, Cheney took the lead in making the case for a pre-emptive military strike, arguing that the return of weapons inspectors should not be the key objective.

[On the other hand de facto secretary of state Colin] Powell said in a BBC interview released on Sunday that getting U.N. inspectors into Iraq "as a first step" was a priority, stating, "The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return."

Once more on top of things, their party chief explains everything.
Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot said differing views were the result of open debate.

"There's no mystery here," Racicot said. "It's just exactly what it appears to be."

Live shell loose on deck!

The other, little-guy countries on the planet may still make a difference after all!

Germany has told the United States it will withhold evidence against Sept. 11 conspiracy defendant Zacarias Moussaoui unless it receives assurances that the material won't be used to secure a death penalty against him, Germany's justice minister said in remarks released Saturday.


A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department said he had no immediate comment.

Outlawing the death penalty is a requirement for membership of the 15-member European Union.

Courage, mes amis! [ok, almost nobody knows the German equivalent]

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

previous archive: August 2002

next archive: October 2002