General: August 2002 Archives

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

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

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

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

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

More on the American car vs. public transit thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do they care? Not much.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But if we have any intelligence we already knew this.

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

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

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

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

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

Let's get Smart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Michael.

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

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

Will Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

When they need to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yea New York! Es lebe the pizza guys!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want the cabrio!

What kind of war is this?

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

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

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

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

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

Uh huh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've written to the offenders.

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

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

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

This page is an archive of entries in the General category from August 2002.

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