June 2003 Archives

Or is it a question of digging our own grave? In any event, this is just not worthy of a great nation, or of a people who think they are a part of a great nation.

French wine didn't make us stupid. French wine didn't make us do wretched things to people we know nothing about. French wine didn't make us greedy and provincial and it did not endow us with a dangerous sense of moral superiority over the entire world. French wine didn't make us cowards. French wine did not turn the world against us.

French wine will not end the "American century."

We're going to do it on our own.

We've been told all year that Americans want to punish France for showing good sense lately in its foreign policy, but I wasn't ready to take the story seriously - until now.

The usual contingent of American wine merchants were mostly absent [from France's largest wine fair this week in Bordeaux], confirming to many at the fair that American ill will over France's opposition to the war in Iraq bruised more than egos.

French wine sales to the United States, once French winemakers' most promising market and now one of their greatest competitors, are going down the drain.

Up to now I had actually thought this nonsense would blow away quickly and that we would soon be directing our anger to the right target: the entire American media and political establishment. In fact it’s clear we haven’t learned a thing, and the result will not be disaster just for certain French industries.

French wine, and perhaps the French aeronautical industry and many others as well, may never recover from American fear and stupidity, but in the end the real victim will be America and everything that a wise and generous America could have been for itself and for the world.

In the meantime, chez nous, we enjoyed a magnificent bottle of French wine last night. The entree was a plate of sauteed sea scallops on a bed of wilted frisee tossed with sauteed shallots, chanterelle and balsamic vinegar. The wine was a Muscat 1992 Grand Cru Goldert Domaine Zind Humbrecht, and the recipe was that of Mario Batalli. An odd combination, but I think "surf and turf" always requires imagination when matching wine and food. Besides, the Zind was getting antsy sitting in the rack here.

Vive la France!

Bloggy has found real pride in Calcutta.

I was in this incredible city in the early nineties. There is no community like it anywhere, even in all of India, not least for its traditional culture of the arts, intellectualism and social radicalism. Pride is no beggar in Calcutta.

For a discussion of homosexuality in pre-Raj India generally, see this essay by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik.

The term homosexuality and the laws prohibiting 'unnatural' sex were imposed across the world through imperial might. Though they exerted a powerful influence on subsequent attitudes, they were neither universal nor timeless. They were - it must be kept in mind - products of minds that were deeply influenced by the 'sex is sin' stance of the Christian Bible. With typical colonial condescension, European definitions, laws, theories and attitudes totally disregarded how similar sexual activity was perceived in other cultures.

How many strawmen?

Fifth Avenue today, the handsome "Metrosource" Float. Barry said they must all be writers.

All this is coming from the second most powerful person in the country (third, if we have to count Bush in addition to Cheney):

[Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist said he feared that the ruling on the Texas sodomy law could lead to a situation "where criminal activity within the home would in some way be condoned."

"And I'm thinking of, whether it's prostitution or illegal commercial drug activity in the home, and to have the courts come in, in this zone of privacy, and begin to define it gives me some concern," Frist said.

No, the problem is as usual that he's not thinking. The ideologue was speaking in the context of his announcement today of support for a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage, because
"I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between, what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined, as between a man and a woman."
So, now the Radical Right, which has always said it is opposed to any extension of federal power, thinks the federal government should be given final authority over religious rites.

On some level I cannot get too enthused about the latest sodomy decision of the Supreme Court. I did not receive a gift last week. The justices did not give me the right to be me or the right to fuck. The rights were always mine, whether those people recognized them or not.

What has changed is the official opinion of 5 or 6 judges, and with much work that change will come to mean much more. [And we must not forget that the strategic appoinment by this administration of just 2 replacements could reverse the decision.] But Frist reminds us that the country itself hasn't been changed overnight by Lawrence and Garner vs. the State of Texas. Opinion and behavior is not the direct product of the judicial system. The opposite may be closer to real experience, but there too it's the lags and the snags which are always so painful.

I'm really an optimist, in spite of these musings. I just hate to see decent people take these things for granted. The malevolent ones never do. Also, like so much that has advanced humanity in the past, whether material or ethical and cultural, we must not think that there was anything inevitable about progress, or that only ordinary, individual mortals were responsible for it, or that we could start from scratch tomorrow and do it over. There are giants and saints, and they've been working at these things for a very long time. Sometimes they get a lot of help.

Thanks LAMBDA and so many other wonderworkers.

Paul, Barry and Scott stop to check out the mysterious Galapagos black pool during our tour of Williamsburg gallery openings Friday night.

[photo does not illustrate incidents in this story, but it is from Diego Garcia]

Although the following events seem to have occurred some time ago, I suspect things are still interesting on this not-so-tight little island.

A story to gladden the hearts of many lusty male queers this holiday weekend has just been reported in the Australian media.

AUSTRALIAN sailors had sex on the beach, streaked through military buses and pranced naked with rolled-up burning paper stuck between their buttocks in a wild, drunken romp at a US outpost in the Indian Ocean.

An investigation by The Weekend Australian has revealed many other complaints of misconduct during the 24-hour shore leave on Diego Garcia – the US base dubbed "Gilligan's Island with guns".

Among the allegations were widespread drunkenness among the crews of HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Kanimbla, urinating in public, overt public male-to-male kissing and abuse of foreign military personnel.

But the Australian Defence Force investigated only a handful – including urinating in public, public nudity, verbal abuse, sexually inappropriate displays of affection and intoxication – because military police found insufficient evidence to identify the other offenders. No other details were ever released.

Disciplinary action has been taken against just two sailors – one for the so-called "dance of the flamers", where rolled paper inserted between the buttocks was set alight, and another for exposing himself in public. Penalties included restriction of privileges and leave, plus a fine equal to five and three days' pay respectively.

Navy chief Vice-Admiral David Shackleton has already ordered a review of behaviour, in particular the use of alcohol. A defence spokesperson said that review was ongoing.

After all that, the Australian authorities seem to believe the big offense is too much alcohol? That kind of attitude is just so damn refreshing for us Yanks.

Have a great Stonewall Weekend, what'er your island!

[thanks to bentkid]

Well, it was a long time between trains.

Sadly, if he even knows it's there, he probably thinks it's too big.

At the Stonewall Place rally yesterday evening, called by Queers for Peace and Justice:

New York City Councilmember Chris Quinn

LAMBDA Executive Director Kevin Cathcart

The AP reports,

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says Thurmond showed what one person can do by living life to the fullest.

Sometimes even an atheist likes to think about an afterlife. I would really like to think that Strom Thurmond could look at the NYTimes front page this morning. At the top is a banner headline reporting the Court's legalization of gay sex, and it rests above a large photo of the two defendents embracing yesterday. For those who notice these things, the couple is mixed-race. Near the bottom of the page is a small-ish headline, "Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100." The photo is also rather small. Justice, but with more than a touch of wit.

Strom's gone. Good.

Virtually 34 years to the day after the Stonewall rebellion, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided we have rights.

Today's ruling invalidates sodomy laws in the 13 states which have retained them until this moment. Until 1962, when Illinois repealed its statute, every state had these laws on the books. The next repeal had to wait until after Stonewall, when Connecticut joined Illinois in 1971. New York shuffled along until 1980 when its law was invalidated by its own judiciary, but the statute itself had remained on the books until it was legislatively removed this month.

For a more Delacroix-esque, full-color take on the events of June, 1969, see this image by California [legislatively repealed, 1976] artist Sandow Birk:

Today, Thursday, on what is essentially the beginning of "Gay Pride" weekend, the Supremes will announce their pontifical decision about whether us queers may have sex.

Either they're going to be delivering good news, or they're really asking for trouble. If it's the latter, will there be rioting in the streets, or will we be too busy partying in our ghettos to notice or care?

Let's be ready across the country, either way. In New York, the designated time and site is 7 in the evening, Sheridan Square (7th Avenue/Christopher Street).

Tuesday is Canada Day, and we're very happy about that, for Canada and for us.

Yea Canada!

[The image is from the fabulous short video, "Switch to Canada"]

[revised June 26 with additional information]

I can't believe I hadn't yet posted anything on a wonderful artist very new to New York, who is opening a one-man show tonight at Daniel Reich.

Disclaimer: We bought three of Paul P.'s works from Daniel's last, wonderfully-over-the-top show, "Karaoke Death Machine," one painting and two images in colored pencil on paper. They are a treasure.

Even as they were effectively mounted as only a part of the magical collage-of-the-whole which composed that show, Paul's pictures, the pink boys and vases of flowers, stood out for their purity and energy - and beauty. In fact they are together the survivors of two plagues. The boys are innocent faces drawn from pre-AIDS porn, the flower arrangements pay homage to Manet's last works, those in which he delighted while dying of syphilis. The title of the show at Daniel Reich is "Paul P. Last Flowers."

The lines of the pencil images float, like delicate etchings, softly colored, on tissue. Tonight's opening should be dynamite, and that's without accounting for the crowd, which should be worth a run-through for its own beauty and its frisson!

Toronto-based, Paul has shown work in Toronto, Stratford, Winnipeg, Santa Monica and on the othergallery, a web-based nomadic gallery that, like its Winnipeg home gallery, focuses on Contemorary Canadian Art. [Who knew that Winnipeg was in Scotland? Listen to the delightful accents of several of the people interviewed in the CBC story.]

Daniel Reich is located at 308 West 21st Street, 2A, New York. The show continues until July.

Oh, has anyone else noticed how hot Canada is these days - at least here in New York?

Maureen Dowd's just about had it with affirmative action!

Justice Thomas's dissent in the 5-4 decision preserving affirmative action in university admissions has persuaded me that affirmative action is not the way to go.

The dissent is a clinical study of a man who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received.

It's poignant, really. It makes him crazy that people think he is where he is because of his race, but he is where he is because of his race.

She reminds herself that
. . . he got into Yale Law School and got picked for the Supreme Court thanks to his race.

. . . .

He is at the pinnacle, an African-American who succeeded in getting past the Anita Hill sexual harassment scandal by playing the race card, calling the hearing "a high-tech lynching," and who got a $1.5 million advance to write his African-American Horatio Alger story, "From Pin Point to Points After."

Dowd is further disgusted by the affirmative action program which brought us George Bush,
the Yale legacy who also disdains affirmative action, is playing affirmative action politics in the preliminary vetting of a prospective Supreme Court nominee, Alberto Gonzales. No doubt Bush 43 will call Mr. Gonzales the best qualified man for the job, rather than the one best qualified to help harvest the 2004 Hispanic vote. [Bush 41 nominated Thomas with the preposterous claim that he was "the best qualified" man for the job.]

President Bush and Justice Thomas have brought me around. I don't want affirmative action. I want whatever they got.

Something's fucked-up about the way we depend upon the narrowly-argued politically-subjective legal-precedent search exercises of nine lifetime appointees (arbitrary lifespans, arbitrary appointments) in order to advance (or, in recent years much more likely, retreat) on social issues.

Other nations normally use a legislative reponse to meet changes in the demands and needs of an enlightened, maturing (maybe that's the problem) population, but our own legislators have nullified themselves through corporate subsidies and their fear of being identified with actual issues.

Examples? Just three for now: Abortion rights, queer rights, information rights.

Today information rights are in the news. Yesterday the Supreme Court not-so-narrowly (6-3) ruled that the nation's libraries must use Internet "pornography filters" if they accept federal financial support. In 2001 Congress had passed the statute upheld yesterday, titled "The Children's Internet Protection Act." The actual employment of the act had been blocked until now by a lower court ruling.

What this means is that the American Radical Right, which has dominated public policy for years, has scored another victory. A majority of Justices is now on record in believing that porn is only for the decadent rich (much in the way safe abortion and easy homosex has always been available for those same fortunates - and will continue to be, even if the Court moves to restrict these rights further).

Often overlooked in the discussion of Internet censorship is the fact that these "filters" do not tell us anything about what is being filtered out (what is it that is being kept from us?) and the fact that these systems simply don't work.

Both sides in the debate did appear to agree on one thing: the software that the government is requiring is far from perfect.

"Filters don't work," said Maurice J. Freedman, director of the Westchester Library System in the suburbs of New York City and president of the American Library Association. "And they're not going to work any better because the Supreme Court says libraries have to install them."

He cited a number of cases in which filters have blocked inoffensive information because search terms set off the protective software, including references to the poet Anne Sexton, Super Bowl XXX and Dick Armey, the former House majority leader.

My partner Barry, using an analogy, asked how anyone would accept a filter which might eliminate your email spam but also destroy a good percentage of your legitimate incoming messages at the same time. You wouldn't, you don't, and libraries shouldn't either.

Early reaction from librarians and others is pretty revealing.

On the one side there are the courageous custodians of all of human experience, like Emily Sheketoff, who will maintain their integrity even in an era of severe budget cuts.

Some libraries may decide to forgo federal financing if the alternative is filtering, said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington office of the American Library Association. "Some library boards have already decided that they are not going to offer their library patrons second-rate information," she said. `They are going to make sure that their library patrons get access to the same quality of information that rich people get at home."
On the other side, there are those who wish to keep the world in the dark. Representative Ernest J. Istook, a Republican of Oklahoma who was an author of the bill, enthused,
"The Supreme Court upheld the thrust of the law." Because of the decision, Mr. Istook said, "libraries can still be safe places for parents to drop off their kids."
In the middle, but because of its source, perhaps even more digusting than Istook's statement, is the quote from Ginnie Cooper, the executive director of the Brooklyn Public Library:
"The real goal is for the people who use the library to get what they want and need, and not be getting what they don't need [my italics]," Ms. Cooper said. "We'll do our best to find, within this new rule, how it is that we can do that."
Who is it who tells people who don't have their own computers "what they don't need"?

Finally, but something more that a postscript, this note: While under the federal act an adult can ask the librarian to turn off the "filtering" software, as at least some supporters, and even some opponents, of the law point out, that means that library patron Doe must explicitly ask to see the "Adult" version of the Internet - not an easy step for many people around the country.

Joseph Chaikin died on Sunday at his home in Greenwich Village.

The great actor and creative director had lived for years with the burden of a congenital heart disease, but this weekend he finally had to leave the boards. His sister, the actress Shami Chaikin, who was with him when he died, reports, in today's NYTimes obituary, how he worked up to the end. He was in Philadelphia auditioning actors on thursday and friday, and he was supposed to have a meeting in his home yesterday.

"He always felt he had to work," Shami Chaikin said. But over the weekend, she added, he felt weak and thought he might have to use a wheelchair. "Everything started to fail," she said. He took a sleeping pill and went to bed, and awoke with distress. She said she asked him what was wrong.

"I don't know," he said. She said those were his last words and he spoke them questioningly, almost analytically, as if trying to understand his role.

It read like a documentary, and I assumed that's what it was. Yea!

But then I began to have my doubts. So, was it just the wishful thinking of this perverse activist queer which so easily cooperated with Scott Treleaven's great and very lefty-homo style to make his reel world so real? "THE SALiVATION ARMY," shown here this month at the New Festival, is a very good film, but it's fictional. Or is it?

Ed Halter writing last November in the Village Voice, when the 22-minute Canadian short was shown at the Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival:

A more earnestly touching heroism emerges in Scott Treleaven's The Salivation Army, a rantumentary about his wannabe-revolutionary homocore faux-gang. DIY grungy and surprisingly subtle, Salivation smartly links world-changing ambitions to perverse desires for purity and innocence. "I have seen the new face of radicalism," Treleaven narrates, "and it is cute." Like Dennis Cooper with a heart, he keeps outsider fires burning. In your face, Will & Grace.
For more thrills, see the SALiVATION ARMY website, and come by D'Amelio Terras Gallery July 1 (until August 1) to see tomorrow's worlds today, including the Queers that are us.

Leaving you with Treleaven's words:

Once And For All: There Is No Scene: There is no membership activity. We've all done our time with the punks, the Goths, the crusties, club scenes, art scenes. Galleries, grebos & factories. You name it. We've done the tattoos, the hairdos, the scars, and the steel till we all looked alike. Communist meetings, Anarchist rallies, potlucks, back rooms, witch circles; all the underground credentials you could want...Having now safely returned to the helm we can report: there wasn't really anybody there...We are the new circus. We are the envy of the fucking world.

(Excerpt from the last missive from the Army)

I came late to Jerry Salz's beautiful tribute to Mark Lombardi last month in the Village Voice, having pulled it off my reading stack only this weekend, but Saltz's paean and his regret for our loss of this wonderful artist has probably gained even more profundity with the passage of even these few weeks. Lombardi hanged himself in his Williamsburg loft March 22, 2000.

Needless to say, our post-9-11 age would have been Lombardi's glory days. I don't mean this lightly. We need him. It's heartbreaking that he isn't here to help diagram everything that has happened lately.
Saltz's memorial was inspired by the incredible show then hanging in Joe Amrhein's iconic gallery, Pierogi 2000, in Williamsburg.
Lombardi is more than a conceptualist or political artist. He's a sorcerer whose drawings are crypto-mystical talismans or visual exorcisms meant to immobilize enemies, tap secret knowledge, summon power, and expose demons. The demons Lombardi concerned himself with, however, weren't otherworldly. He was after real people who were either hiding in plain sight or who had managed to fade into the woodwork. Lombardi was on a mission: He wanted to right wrongs by revealing them. Instead of critiquing the system, like so many contemporary conceptualists, or journeying to other psychic dimensions like shamans, Lombardi assumed the personas of the grand inquisitor, the private investigator, and the lone reporter. He followed the money.

I loved the way his mind worked. But it was his wildly suspicious imagination and his maniacal attention to and ultra-distrust of the status quo that made me think Lombardi was ill-starred. He was a rangy, whimsical, articulate guy, prone to fidgetiness and discomfiture, and if you asked him anything about his work, you'd get a way too detailed answer. But these garrulous explanations always came with a crooked smile and an expectant look that seemed to say, "I know this is strange, but it's all true."

Thanks Mark, Joe, and Jerry

Yesterday was the 19th of June - "Juneteenth," but this is not yesterday's story.

The social and political geography may sound strange, but I first heard about this holiday while working in Boston 25 years ago. Barbara was a very strong and very generous white woman from El Paso, and she made the story very real for all of her office mates. I seriously envied her for experiences which seemed awfully exotic to a painfully-white midwestern male.

Only with the understanding gained from my own experiences since then have I been able to begin to understand that the announcement of June 19, 1865, was premature, and that it remains so today.

This Common Dreams/San Francisco Chronicle article by Joseph "Jazz" Hayden describes only one obstacle to liberation, but it's one which is just plain wrong, and it could be completely eliminated easily and quickly.

Today, many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth, the bittersweet anniversary of June 19, 1865, when the last remaining slaves were freed.

Some people assume that slavery in America died with President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But Lincoln lacked the power to enforce his edict in the Confederate-controlled South, and slaveholders in remote states such as Texas continued to exploit their human chattel. For two and a half years, no one told the slaves that they were no longer a white man's property. Only when a regiment of Union soldiers arrived in Texas with news of slavery's demise -- and the power to back it up -- did Lincoln's promise to African Americans come true.

While this 138-year-old tale might at first seem like ancient history, echoes of Juneteenth resonate in the struggles people of color face today. Getting rights on paper, Juneteenth reminds us, is a far cry from getting them in practice.

That's what makes Juneteenth such a bittersweet holiday. On the one hand, it honors a great advance for African Americans -- gaining the rights of citizenship, especially the right to vote. But it also marks the beginning of an era in which whites imposed countless discriminatory laws, such as poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses, meant to keep blacks powerless.

Many of these overtly discriminatory state laws have been called out as racist and unconstitutional, and have been wiped from the books. But there is at least one notable exception: felony disenfranchisement laws.

The remainder of the piece describes the history and the narrow, racist application of these laws, which deprive 4.65 millions Americans of the right to vote.
Today, our "tough on crime" policies -- especially our draconian drug laws -- disproportionately target people of color. Only 14 percent of illegal drug users are black, but blacks make up 74 percent of those sentenced for drug possession. One in three black men will be jailed at some point.

This translates directly into loss of political power. Blacks are denied the vote because of criminal records five times more often than whites. Thirteen percent of African American men are permanently disenfranchised, and many more have temporarily lost their voting rights. Latinos are also disproportionately affected, given that 16 percent of Latino men will enter prison in their lifetime. This leaves communities of color vastly underrepresented in the political process.

Note that while in this article Hayden regularly refers to southern racism, the note at the bottom of the Common Dreams page shows that he is currently the chief plaintiff in a New York State civil lawsuit challenging felon disenfranchisement in my own, very northern jurisdiction.

How are we supposed to register this acount of today's rather sensationalist domestic terrorism story?

The bad news is that terrorists were plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.

But the good news — at least according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg — is that they cared enough about New York to target it.

"I guess in a perverse way should be pleased," Bloomberg said Thursday. "We are the target because it is the world's second home. We are the target because it's the place where everybody wants to come. Because we give opportunities other people find threatening. ... That's the good news in a bad news scenario."

Feel better?


* with apologies to Hallmark

Tell us all once again why we had to bomb Iraq.

Yesterday in a town 150 miles south of Baghdad, even the local American military commander, together with his officers and the soldiers and marines under them, were disappointed with U.S. heavy handedness.

American marines had built makeshift wooden ballot boxes. An Army reserve unit from Green Bay, Wis., had conducted a voter registration drive. And Iraqi political candidates had blanketed the city with colorful fliers outlining their election platforms — restore electricity, rehabilitate the old quarter, repave roads.

But last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.

Several days later, American marines stormed the offices of an obscure local political party here, arrested four members and jailed them for four days. The offense, the Americans said, was a violation of a new edict by Mr. Bremer that makes it illegal to incite violence against forces occupying Iraq.

Mohammed Abdul Hadi, an official in the party, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq, accused the United States of a double standard.

"Why do you apply these constraints on us in Iraq," he said, "and they are not being applied by the American government on Americans?"

The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis. American officials have said it may take up to two years for an elected Iraqi government to take over the country.

Half a century ago today, and only 8 years after the end of the Nazi regime, long-suffering workers in east Berlin decided they had had enough. Because of Russian tanks however, it would be almost another 4 decades before the revolt against dictatorship begun that day would succeed.

Some of the earliest activists are still around to talk about it today.

The longtime main goal for Paul Werner Wagner, who was 5 years old in 1953 when he marched beside his father in the first workers' uprising in Soviet-controlled Central Europe, has been to make sure that the men and women who suffered and went to prison at that time not be forgotten.

"At 17," he recalled today, "I founded a party. It was the Progressive German Freedom Party. We published a 14-point program that was inspired by the 10-point program of June 17, 1953. For that, I spent a year and a half in the Red Ox Prison in Halle.

"So for me, June 17 is a symbol of hope, and the people who undertook the events of June 17 must not be forgotten."

Mr. Wagner was talking, though, about an event that has been largely forgotten outside of Germany. It has been obscured by subsequent heroic actions, like the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland of the 1980's, which led, ultimately, to the fall of Communism all over Eastern Europe.

But 50 years ago this Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets in 272 cities and towns across what was then the German Democratic Republic, the eastern half of divided Germany.

Within the space of that single day, they raided jails to release political prisoners, made and listened to speeches outlining a possible better future, issued manifestos calling for both democracy and better conditions for themselves and threw a scare into the East German leadership from which it never completely recovered.

At the end of the day, Soviet troops and the East German police, backed by tanks, put down demonstrations and arrested many of the movement's leaders. A number of people were killed in the process, estimated at between 25 and 300. Brief as it was, the June 17 uprising remained a treasured and inspiring memory for thousands, for whom, when East Germany finally did die in 1989, it seemed a precursor, a herald of what was to come.

Sadly, and for less than honorable reasons, at least until very recently the events of that June have been largely ignored in the West. Apparently I haven't been the only one who has been bothered by the strange silence which began decades ago. In commemorations today the politicians tried to make amends for past neglect.
"There are so many days in our history associated with defeats or mistakes," President Johannes Rau told a special session of parliament in Berlin. "June 17 is one of the proud days in German history."
In the socialist East, there were certainly many idealists who had not supported the 1953 uprising, but in the West the lack of support, even shortly after the events, was and remains so much less understandable.*
Germany lost interest in the uprising during more than 40 years of Cold War separation that led to a gradual accommodation with the communist German state.

"Let's be honest: For one reason or another, June 17 had become a nuisance to many of us," Rau said.

The uprising began with a protest by East Berlin construction laborers over higher work quotas as Germany rebuilt after World War II. It evolved into broad unrest with calls for free elections and German unity.

Protesters stormed public buildings and, in some cities outside Berlin, set up strike committees with the aim of wresting power from the communists.

East German propaganda and schoolbooks portrayed the protesters as fascist Western agents until the country collapsed in the wake of huge peaceful pro-democracy protests in 1989.

West Germany had a June 17 annual memorial day. But after reunification, it was replaced by Oct. 3, the date on which the east rejoined the larger west in 1990.

Well, they seem to be working out a lot of stuff right now; maybe the holiday thing can get resolved too. Happy anniversary to a free people who understand what it takes.

For more, from witnesses and from today's youth, "And now they can be proud of it," see the BBC story and the video linked there.


* The CIA site admits the U.S. was both surprised and disinterested.

The Berlin uprising was a spontaneous action that took American intelligence officers by surprise. Although the United States had waged an active propaganda campaign that encouraged dissatisfaction with the Communist regime, it had not worked directly to foster open rebellion and had no mechanism in place to exploit the situation when it arose. US authorities in Berlin thus had no alternative but to adopt an attitude of strict neutrality.1 Many East Germans nonetheless expected the United States to intervene. These expectations persisted, unintentionally fueled by a US-sponsored food-distribution program that began on 1 July and lasted until the East Berlin government put an end to it in August.2

Yea! Anees, our Palestinian friend living in East Jerusalem now has his own blog up and running.

One of his first posts concerns the construction of a totally redundant road to nearby Jewish settlements (on occupied Palestinian land) which Israel is building outside his family's home.

I bet when completed it will be a road suspended high above with side walls that hide 'us' from view, and keep 'us' away. In one such 'Jewish-only' road which hovers high above nearby Bir Nabala, a small Arab village, the high side walls are even painted with scenery, simulating a landscape view free of Arab existence.
Have they no shame?

Sometimes lacrosse is more than just lacrosse. [when it's a crowded Union Square on Greenmarket day, and the uniforms are very much optional]

The Segway is supposed to be foolproof - "A two-wheeled, intuitive personal transportation device that won't fall. This super-smart, computer chip-laden machine won't topple with a driver's clumsiness."

This week our very own chief fool showed this to be just plain wrong.

US President George Bush has been photographed falling off a high-tech scooter near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

A sequence of photos show President Bush stepping onto a two-wheeled high-tech scooter and then lurching forward before recovering his balance.

I don't know how a figure could be strictly defined, even if one could somehow be located on the record, but while a friend who has spent time in Israel and Palestine reported anecdotally that the number of homes which have been destroyed by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip is 80 percent, any percent would be an abomination.

. . . there was no record of the Za'anin family having heard a nearby explosion, in a street controlled by tanks and armored personnel carriers, at around 6 P.M. that day. About 20 minutes later the family, which was sitting in the living room, heard the noise of the churning bulldozers.

"Suddenly we saw Jews in the house," said Amana Za'anin. An officer and soldiers entered through a breach they opened in the wall of the house. They aimed their weapons at the family, and ordered them out. According to the family, they were not allowed to take anything with them. Not even the mother's head covering. The student daughter cried she didn't want to leave without her books and notebooks. Her parents said that they had to drag her away from "under the bulldozer."

[Anees found this]

Spencer Tunick did his thing in Barcelona on Sunday. But Barcelona did more than Spencer's thing.

While Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani censored Tunick's art, along with the inclination of New Yorkers to happily get naked in its service. Giuliani had managed to arrest, and sometimes jail, Tunick 5 times. Three years ago a photoshoot much smaller than Barcelona's was proposed for a Sunday dawn in an area virtually empty of people, but there was to be no joy, no art in Gotham that morning, thanks to our prosecutorial hypocrite.

In Barcelona the authorities seem to have had no problem with 7,000 (described as up to 12,000 elsewhere) happy naked Spaniards filling a "sweeping Barcelona boulevard" in daylight, and even provided a nearby massive convention hall for an assembly area.

But the Catalonian crowd was interested in more than art or mass urban nudity. As Tunick gave them the go-ahead, speaking into a microphone,

The crowd erupted into cheers and then chants of "No War!" and "No to Bush!"

Ozan Sezen, who works with computers, said he had read with dismay of Mr. Tunick's repeated installation-related arrests in New York City several years ago. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that Mr. Tunick had a right to stage his art outside without being jailed, but the Giuliani administration rejected his subsequent permit request; Mr. Tunick has not approached Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for permission.

Mr. Sezen, 35, who was wearing a T-shirt that said "Rock Solid Beefcake," prepared to take it off.

"In many of his exhibitions, there are a lot of fat guys, which makes it much easier," he said.

The time came. There was loud cheering, and the sound of thousands of underpants hitting the floor. Everyone walked outside, naked.

The intrepid reporter joined them, with only a notepad for cover.
Then it was over. Some people jogged nude up and down the boulevard. Others re-dressed. Inside, Scott Ansell, 31, an Englishman who had already taken part in an earlier work by Mr. Tunick, involving hundreds of naked people riding the escalators in a London department store, mused on the cultural differences.

"The English seemed a bit more giggly," he said. "I get the impression that half of the people here will be naked later today, anyway."

His friend Jane Hyde, 44, said of the apparent Spanish tendency to spank their own naked rear ends as a form of applause, "That bottom-smacking thing is rude!"


For a small slideshow of pictures, see Reuters.

I expect Bloggy will be seeing an increase in traffic in the near future. The very hot and very sweet Glenn thanks him for help in setting up his new site:

Barry recommended my server, helped me get everything running, and has the added attraction of being a stone’s throw from a Krispy Kreme. Plus he vaguely looks like Robbie Williams.

I couldn't recomend more highly the Les Arts Florissants production of Rameau's "Les Boréades" which opened June 9 at the Brookly Academy of Music. I'd be astounded if it hasn't sold out already, but the Academy Howard Gilman Opera House is a very big space.

The music is gorgeous, and until recently inexplicably neglected. The singing is superb, and the visuals are magificent, modern but fully respectful of the formalism of mid-eighteenth-century France.

The story and the libretto, with their elevation of la Liberté to the highest order, well, next to the redemptive qualities of love, are pure Enlightenment, and a healthy reminder of how much we still owe to the French, who taught our Fathers so much we seem now to have forgotten ourselves.

Rameau wrote the music in 1763. He was 80, and he died the following year. The text was the work of a Freemason, which may explain why it was never performed in his time. The work but had to wait for its premier until just a few years ago. This is it's American premier.

More than most operas, "Les Boréades" is a balance of theater, music and dance. There are long sections with no vocal lines whatsoever, where the dance soars.

Director Robert Carsen and his creative team flood the stage with summer blossoms, mountainous piles of autumn leaves, punishing winter snows, and thunderous spring storms. The soloists, chorus, and dancers, 140-strong, are costumed in late 1940s, Dior-inspired dress to simpler garments to no garments at all. And then there are the marvels of Rameau, a master whose haunting airs and orchestral dances for Les Boréades put many more familiar operas to shame. Rameau called on a lifetime of experience in its creation, but above all he knew the human heart.
The huge chorus and the dancers (astoundingly, they are virtually indistinguishable for much of the evening in this production) are individually and together exceptionally beautiful and athletic, and lucky in their choreographer. The sets and lighting would please Wieland Wagner and Robert Wilson.



Adding to our own entertainment on opening night was the buzz created by the presence of the dashing young Canadian equery who accompanied "Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada" and her consort, the essayist and novelist "His Excellency John Ralston Saul, C.C."

This handsome, perfectly-bilingual couple sat immediately across the aisle from us and joined the champagne patron receptions during two intermissions. The smiling equery, equally bilingual, clutched a thick leather portfolio (documents which might be needed to identify the GG, in the event of some unpleasant emergency, like our INS mistreating another Canadian citizen?) and never strayed far.

I have to gasp at the biographies of these two and admire what that says about their nation, especially when we look at what passes for the "qualifications" of our own current pretender to the office of U.S. chief executive. Of course the Canadian executive office has no real power, but it does clearly represent what Canada holds dear. Both nations regularly select lessor creatures to do the real ruling business.

[Note: The Governor General is nominated by the Canadian Prime Minister and approved by the Queen (Canadian Head of State) as her representative in Canada.]

By the way, Clarkson and Saul were at BAM on Monday not because of any official Canadian connection, but just for the show (they're both interested in the culture of all nations, and Saul especially is interested in promoting that of the French). Just a night out.

What does Baghdad look like today?

The strongest account I've read succeeds where even pictures have failed.

An excerpt:

And then you drive back, through the centre, and see what has happened to the ministries and powerhouses that used at least to keep some of the country alive, and realise that they have not merely been looted but invaded, lobotomised, trepanned. The Americans are hardly in evidence, and soon it will be dark again, and the guns will begin again: and you can't help but wonder how, when we managed to get the surgical excision of Saddam so right, we have apparently managed to get everything else so wrong in this country. An old and an interesting country, and one in which everyone has been unfailingly, unaccountably courteous and helpful, apart from the ones who are trying to shoot you. They welcomed me into one mosque for Friday prayers, this know-nothing Westerner whose country had just helped bring their city to a halt, careful as they washed their feet not to use too much water. Prayers were all-male: women have stopped coming out for the moment.

Others offered me their bottled water, as they always offer it to each other. It is sweet to see the way in which old men unembarrassedly hold hands on marches, quick to pull each other out of the way of traffic (or perhaps it's just in case they're hit by one of the cacophony of toots: they laugh, here, about their drivers' propensity for the horn, and call it 'Baghdad music'.) A kindly and spectacularly ravaged people, and I'm not sure quite what's about to happen to them.

. . . .

Baghdad has turned into Afghanistan faster than Afghanistan. As I write this, the UN weapons inspectors are going back in to see whether the looting of the city's main nuclear power station has given Baghdad a radioactive water supply. Could this really imaginably be, in the minds of those who went to war for even the best intentions, the preferred legacy? A land where all the children smell of petrol? A land fit only for flies?

[thanks to Anees]

John Dean (remember John Dean?) suggests that lying about the reason for war is an impeachable offense. My first thought is how could Americans think it's worse than fibbing about a blow job, but Dean argues that the NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman may have been right when he said "the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history - worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra."

President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake - acts of war against another nation.

Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away - unless, perhaps, they start another war.

. . . .

Krugman is right to suggest a possible comparison to Watergate. In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison.

. . . .

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

Yeah, sure, but this is the entertainment-news, born-again and ADD America. Where's the sex?

Ellis Henican writes in today's New York Newsday:

The Martha Stewart case isn't exactly Enron, where thousands of workers saw their whole life savings vaporized.

Martha isn't WorldCom, where the three-card-monte accounting reached $9 billion high.

She isn't even Arthur Andersen, where 28,000 employees were blithely sacrificed on the altar of executive greed.

Henican observes from the courthouse:
Despite the delicious embarrassment of a prim perfectionist extraordinaire, two things were hard to deny yesterday:

1. If Martha weren't famous, we wouldn't be here.

2. And neither would she.

In spite of the big media fuss, the criminal charges against her are not for insider trading (the evidence was found to be too flimsy), but rather for lying.
Martha's lawyers, Bob Morvillo and John Tigue, kind of had a point when they emphasize the absence of the underlying charge. "It is most ironic," they said in their statement, "that Ms. Stewart faces criminal charges for obstructing an investigation which established her innocence."

Why? they asked.

"Is it for publicity purposes because Martha Stewart is a celebrity? Is it because she is a woman who has successfully competed in a man's business world by virtue of her talent, hard work and demanding standards? Is it because the government would like to be able to define securities fraud as whatever it wants it to be? Or is it because the Department of Justice is attempting to divert the public's attention from its failure to charge the politically connected managers of Enron and WorldCom who may have fleeced the public out of billions of dollars?"

There's a difference, it's been said, between insider traders and the rest of us. The difference is the quality of their tips.

A Palestinian friend in East Jerusalem sent this email on Tuesday to me and to a number of others. I have not altered a single letter. These words do not come from another planet or another time - they describe our own world, today.

Hi friends, I just finished having lunch and felt a strong urge to write this. With us today at the lunch table was Um Mazen, a woman from a West Bank peasant community God knows where. She's been working for us for years now. She comes and helps my mom with cleaning the house once a week. She comes around 8 and leaves after lunch. Today was sort of different. Earlier, some British reporter interviewed Um Mazen. My mom, who runs a charity society that helps poor Palestinians, was receiving him upstairs in her little office when she mentioned Um Mazen's stories of hardship. He was interested in learning more about this woman, and asked to come downstairs to meet her. This happened while I was trying to prolong my sleep. (I went to bed after 4 am this morning.) My mom and her secretary translated the Brit's questions, and Um Mazen told her stories. I was not there to hear what she said, but I can guess what stories because I know about Um Mazen. Stories about waking up at 4 to bake bread which she brings us some of every week; about her good-for-nothing husband who smokes a lot and does nothing; about supporting her ten or so children and how they support her; about walking hours at dawn around checkpoints to reach the Jerusalem households she works for; about having done this work for years; about staying overnight yesterday in Jerusalem because all roads (I should say dirt-roads, trails, Torra-Borras) back to her town were closed or patrolled by soldiers; about how other things in her life are unbearable and how she deals with them. I heard them moving around outside my door at the end of their talk. The reporter took a picture of Um Mazen to take home. Back to lunch which just finished. Mom was telling Dad and I about the brief interview. Then Um Mazen said what she said. "You think he believed and was convinced?" It broke me to hear those words out of her mouth. This is a 40-something woman who was worried perhaps she didn't appear convincing to this Westerner. That perhaps her stories sounded too far fetched. That it must be that Westerners don't believe our stories and that's why they don't help us; because if that was not the case then how can it be that they don't do anything to help us? Because if that was not the case then why would someone interview her when her story is repeated thousands of times a day? Isn't it to make sure it's true? This woman, whose life is totally dictated by the sum of all the forcefields of oppression in our region, thinks that she has a credibility problem. All this was not alone in keeping me from sleep. There was also a bulldozer outside my bedroom window busy terracing land for the upcoming attraction to our neighbourhood: an overhead road that winds its way between houses to serve a nearby Israeli settlement (by connecting it with another). Looking at a plan for this road obtained from our local council one wonders what the hell made it necessary. It is completely redundant. But we know why it will be built. Because: the world believes them and not us.

[many thanks to Anees]

"A Muslim boy and a Jewish girl who lived next door to each other in Baghdad became friends."


This beautiful story originally appeared as an Op-Art item in the NYTimes, but it no longer shows up the paper's site. I recently (December, 2004) received an email from the artist, Lauren Redniss, who included the wonderful image. I've uploaded it below.

Op-Art 6.3.03 .jpg

I know Paul Krugman shows up a lot in this space, but he's almost the only, and certainly the most visible, major media reporter we have who has both a head and the courage to display it.

Today his paper reports and editorializes on the fact that the Justice Department has turned our justice system upside down since September 11. This attention is given to the subject now only because the latest news comes from a unit of the Bush administration itself, the inspector general of the Justice Department.

But Krugman is still the only one who will write about the full scale and the broader significance of this gang's crimes against us all, crimes of lies and deceit, and in the same edition of the NYTimes this morning he lets it fly.

It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent — who supported Britain's participation in the war — writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election"* next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted.

The "Khaki Election"
At the turn of the century, British politics was dominated by the war in South Africa. The Conservatives ("Tories") fought the general election of 1900 on this single issue, and won a landslide victory on a mandate to end the war in South Africa successfully.

[thanks to the British Public Record Office]

"My sexuality is my own sexuality. It doesn’t belong to anybody. Not to my government, not to my brother, my sister, my family. No one."
Ahraf Zanati is now safe in Vancouver, but two years ago he was one of 52 men arrested, tortured and imprisoned in Cairo for being on board a Nile riverboat disco patronized by gay and bisexual males.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt (as it still is in some U.S. jurisdictions) but these men were tried for crimes of debauchery and offence to religion nevertheless. Significantly, foreigners were merely told to leave when police boarded the boat. I was aboard the Queen Boat myself years ago, and so, on account of my timing if not my birth, I suppose I may have been lucky to escape - with my debauchery and religious offence completely intact.

Much of the world has not been so fortunate. Millions are still in great peril for their sexuality, and a new documentary, "Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World," examines the dangers and rare triumphs for queers of all kinds in the "Global South."

The film will be shown next Saturday at 3:30 at NYU's Cantor Film Center (36 E 8th St. at University Place) as part of the New Festival.

Mubarak Dahir offers a good account of queer life in Cairo today.

And for perhaps the latest on a story which will have not end (because it has political utility), see this Gay City News story.

The U.S. has just passed Russia in the percent of its citizens it keeps behind bars.

"Why, in the land of the free, should 2 million men, women and children be locked up?" asks Andrew Coyle, director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at the University of London and a leading authority on incarceration.

When he discusses crime and punishment with foreign colleagues, Coyle says, the United States is such an anomaly that it must often be left out of the discussion. "People say, 'Well, that's the United States.' They see the U.S. as standing entirely on its own," he says.

. . . .

Today the United States imprisons at a far greater rate not only than other developed Western nations do, but also than impoverished and authoritarian countries do.

On a per capita basis, according to the best available figures, the United States has three times more prisoners than Iran, four times more than Poland, five times more than Tanzania and seven times more than Germany. Maryland has more citizens in prison and jail (an estimated 35,200) than all of Canada (31,600), though Canada's population is six times greater.

To me this suggests something's just not right. This being America however, not everyone is disturbed by these numbers, and in fact for some they're not good enough.
"If you put someone in prison, you can be sure they're not going to rob you," says David B. Muhlhausen, a policy analyst at the [right-wing] Heritage Foundation. "Quality research shows that ... increasing incarceration decreases crime." Considering that there are still about 12 million serious crimes a year, Muhlhausen says, "maybe we're not incarcerating enough people."
The article by Scott Shane, which appears in today's Baltimore Sun, is a good mini-primer on the subject of how America deals with those it regards as wrongdoers.

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