General: October 2002 Archives

Barry has just blogged a great piece on the disaster in Israel and Palestine.

One of today's Ha'aretz essays, titled "Before Jewish fascism takes over", discusses interesting similarities between this era and that of the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. Yossi Sarid argues that what caused Jerusalem to collapse was zealotry, and Israel faces the same danger today

Now for a completely different read [NYTimes letter] on the item I posted recently.


To the Editor:

Re "G.M. Gets Criticism for Backing Tour of Christian Music Performers" (Business Day, Oct. 24):

Chevrolet's sponsorship of a Christian concert tour reveals how some evangelical leaders have resorted to superficial marketing techniques to promote their religious views. These leaders are becoming like business managers who design market-driven programs to reach targeted audiences.

Spirituality becomes dependent upon providing church members with entertaining worship services that offer messages on success and psychological comfort. A growing number of evangelicals are promoting the development of programs and beliefs that foster cultural conformity.

It is tragic that Christian concerts have trivialized God by resorting to cheap marketing methods. America needs religious groups that encourage people to be cultural creators who embrace a spirituality that has a moral vision for the common good.
Alpharetta, Ga., Oct. 24, 2002

Is it using SUVs to sell god that trivializes the writer's imaginary friend, or is it using god to sell SUVs?

Don't let them keep getting away with it. [The Democrat-Republican party oligarchy, that is.] And we won't even be helping Pataki when we do it!

Barry says it all on Bloggy:

I see no reason to vote for Carl McCall in this election. Pataki, whom I despise as much as the next person, appears ready to win in a landslide. He has been endorsed by all of the major newspapers in the state, and the latest polls show that McCall might even get less votes than Golisano.

So my advice: McCall's going to lose big anyway, so vote for the Green candidate, Stanley Aronowitz. You'll help keep the Green Party on the state ballot without them having to go through and expensive petition process.

Aronowitz is a great candidate. He was a steelworker and union organizer, and he is currently Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Every endorsement of Pataki has talked about how dysfunctional Albany is, with most decisions made by just three people: Pataki, Sheldon Silver, and Joe Bruno. Why reward the two major parties by letting them continue to operate this way? 98% of state legislators are re-elected in each election.

I'm very, very serious about this. We have watched the Democrats collapse in front of the Republicans over civil rights, drug laws, health care, tax cuts for the wealthy, and war. When you have a chance to vote for a Green, particularly when doing so doesn't help a Republican, you must do it.

Good coverage of NY Politics, including the poll numbers, can be found on

A poet salutes his friend.

Paul Wellstone was an unlikely politician in a place like Minnesota — land of walleyes, cornfields and phlegmatic Scandinavians. He was an urban Jew, son of immigrants, a college professor at the fanciest of Minnesota's private colleges. And, probably worst of all for his non-talkative constituents, he was a passionate orator, a skilled rouser of rabble over issues he loved and an unapologetic populist liberal.

Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, and five others
were killed today in a small plane crash near Eveleth, Minnesota.

The Senator was one of our most courageous and progressive legislators, and we have very very few.

His death is a tremendous tragedy for the nation and the world.

Gosh, and I thought it was just their cars and SUVs that were offensive.

Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, is title sponsor of the monthlong 16-city Come Together and Worship Tour, which begins on Nov. 1 in Atlanta. The tour will feature two acts in the fast-growing genre known as contemporary Christian music, W. Michael Smith and Third Day, along with a Texas pastor, the Rev. Max Lucado.

When Chevrolet announced its sponsorship, a news release described Mr. Lucado as a "world-renowned author." But, as The Detroit Free Press said in an article yesterday, Mr. Lucado will be preaching on stage between the musical acts of the show. The shows will also include the distribution of evangelical literature to audience members. As a result, some find Chevrolet's association with such a tour disturbing.

But there's even more.
The sponsorship is to be augmented by Chevrolet with a monthlong promotional program to some consumers on the concert stops, inviting them to take test drives at local Chevrolet dealerships where they can get free CD's featuring songs by Mr. Smith and Third Day and an audio version of a chapter from Mr. Lucado's new book, "A Love Worth Giving."

There are complementary promotions sponsored by a national chain known as Family Christian Stores along with general retailers like the Sam's Club and Wal-Mart divisions of Wal-Mart Stores, Borders and Books-A-Million.

These are our children!

Activists demonstrated inside and outside of the UN General Assembly yesterday, where they shouted, "No war in Iraq!"

These good folks, knowingly or not, were following in the footsteps and the soundbites of generations of worthy progressive protestors and innovative interlopers, most notably and most recently those spawned by AIDS activism.

Until they close down the world altogether, activists will always find a way to speak.

But I suppose the NYTimes will also always find ways to distort the news and the message. What's with their gratuitious statement, "The protestors were apparently not armed or carrying any unusual items."?

One more humble question, this one for the City of New York: Why were six people arrested outside on the street, apparently only for speaking?

It's a fucked-up country.

Sexphobia and religion encourages AIDS

Ever bigger, tanklike SUVs protect us from each other

Bombing is regularly employed to maintain peace

Health care is made a commodity

Incumbents are honored when terror strikes on their watch

The environment is converted into theme parks

Public schools must be supported by donations

--or replaced by private schools

History has been turned into a costume party

Violence is conventional

Drugs are regarded as more dangerous than a drug war

Democracy is rejected in favor of gossip

Populism is regarded as class war

Guns are absolutely the law of the land

Taxes are a duty for all but big business and the rich

Intelligence is always suspect

Corporations abjure tax obligations

--but compete to throw money at government

Theocracy is regarded as the ideal polity

Suburban villas keep us as far from each other as money can manage

Using public transportation is regarded as shameful

Morality must always be religious morality, and it usually means sex

Almost everything means sex

Asshole Trump essentially embodies the worst aspects of the New York of the last few decades. Stupidity, greed, the appetite for power, horrendous taste, insensitivity, waste, and just plain vulgarity, with absolutely no redeeming social value.

He is an embarassment for a city almost impervious to embarassment.

Why hasn't he been run out of town yet?

The Daily News did its tabloid thing yesterday with an hysterical front page headline ("IT'S TOLLS FOR THEE") and story screaming the news that our Mayor wants to charge tolls on the East River crossings.


Gosh, why should someone driving a two or three-ton machine over our streets and bridges into the narrow, impossibly-overcrowded, polluted, noisy and pedestrian-dangerous streets of Manhattan have to pay money for the privilege? Besides, don't those streets and bridges maintain themselves, just as the buses and subways do, and shouldn't they not cost a cent for those who use them? And for more than fifty years haven't we already given away, usually for free, a good chunk of each public street to private car owners so they can store their property? The issue is clearly a no-brainer, what? The News seems to think so.

Get ready to dig deeper into your pockets: The Bloomberg administration is preparing to put tolls on the East River bridges.
The article continued with a description of two Borough presidents' reactions and those of several equally generous and thoughtful driver-citizens.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has called the idea "a turkey," and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has said commuters should not be "punished" for traveling from one borough to another.

Yesterday, at the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, drivers fumed when asked about possible tolls.

"It's outrageous," said Randy Settenbrino, a real estate sales associate from Brooklyn. "I'm surprised Bloomberg doesn't charge for air. As usual, this is a tax that hurts the average working person just trying to get by."

Jose Rodriguez, 30, a construction worker from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said the tolls could be devastating.

"If I pay $6 a day, that's over a $100 a month," he said. "With that money, I should be buying food for my kids."

Unfortunately these good burghers probably have nothing to worry about. This is America, even if it is New York. You just do not mess with the car.

Wow! Holding a grudge for eighty-nine years!

The NYTimes let us know this week that it has by no means forgotten its ignominious defeat over an environmental issue fought in the early years of the last century.

In an editorial appearing yesterday the newspaper essentially came out in favor of the draining of a magnificent California valley lost, before World War I, to a large dam and a water reservoir for the City of San Francisco.

In 1913, over the course of the year, this page ran a total of six thunderous editorials opposing the reservoir and unsuccessfully urging President Woodrow Wilson to intercede. In the uninhibited vernacular of the time, the editorials described the scheme as "sordid," the commercial interests that supported it as "grabbers of water and power," and California's politicians as "trans-Mississippians" who "care nothing for matters of natural beauty and taste." Given this editorial pedigree, the least we can do is endorse a feasibility study. It may well lead to something remarkable.
The tone of the pre-WWI editorial clearly betrays the fact that the Times had not yet assumed its self-appointed role as the entire nation's daily newspaper--and it also might show that it was once somewhat bolder about opposing monied interests than it is today.

Heck, although I was an insurance underwriter for thirty years (albeit in tort liability, not health insurance), I happy to find that I'm not the only American who understands the basic principle of insurance, the spread of risk among a group of insureds.

To the Editor:

Re "The Forgotten Domestic Crisis," by Marcia Angell (Op-Ed, Oct. 13): In addition to placing health care increasingly out of the economic reach of individuals and businesses, our commodity approach guarantees that the pool of insurable individuals will continue to shrink, thereby undermining the very essence of affordable insurance.

Insurance works because a lot of people pay premiums and not everyone uses services. The more healthy people insured, the stronger the system. A single-payer, broadly financed health insurance system is hardly socialism; it is the only way health care can become universally accessible and even remotely cost-effective.

San Francisco, Oct. 15, 2002

Gosh, what could be more fair, efficient, even mainstream and truly "American" than insurance?

I feel apologetic for the limited number of my postings lately, so I'm referring you all to Barry for great stuff, both political and everything that ain't.

In spite of the direction in which the caption seems to point, it's not about politics this time.

Sub-headline: "Bikes told to take a hike"

San Diego in my experience is one of the most fitness-conscious, physical cities we have. Its citizens are outdoor-sy, even fanatical, in their devotion to recreation and splashy exertions of all kinds.

I have no way to gauge the comparative level of San Diegans' intelligence with the American average, but it regularly manages to attract its youth in from under the sun to its own well-endowed schools and universities.

Finally, it's hardly arguable that the city has prospered enormously throughout its history from the contributions of the huge proportion of its residents who were not born in the U.S.

So it's very sad that it is in this good city, or at least at its borders, that an extraordinary scenario unfolded in the last year which I see as a metaphor for our larger society's sheer stupidity and laziness, and not incidently its newly-energized strain of nativism.

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 2 — In this, the land where the automobile is king, at the busiest human crossroads in the world, the lowly bicycle had a brief moment of glory. For a time, two wheels were faster than four.

This was in the days and months after Sept. 11, when border agents were checking every trunk and lifting every hood, and the inspection lines for cars were three hours long. The pedestrian lines were no shorter, since they had swelled with people who had gotten out of their cars.

But people in the bike lane breezed through. Word got out. A bike rental business bloomed.

It didn't last. Officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service shut down the outdoor bike lane in midsummer, saying they were afraid that the 3,000 commuters from Mexico using it — among them housekeepers, schoolchildren and even some people in wheelchairs — were a danger to themselves as they slipped out of the lane to weave in and out of the lines of idling cars.

As a result, local lawmakers are boiling, a group of border entrepreneurs are broke, and again it is left to the Mexican workers to suck it up and rise five hours before the workday begins to beat the rush.


When they shut the bike lane, which was roughly a foot wide and skirted auto traffic, immigration officials promised to look into a more functional permanent one. A study commissioned by the immigration service showed that one could be built for about $500,000, but no government agency wants to pay for it.

"It's just not cost-effective, I suppose," said William B. Ward, port director of the border crossing.

The local congressman, Bob Filner, sees bureaucracy at its worst. "The whole thing is a joke," he said. "They found a way to get 3,000 people out of their cars, and they say, `Hey, we better get rid of this.' "

Although it was on a relativley small scale, a rare opportunity to eliminate pollution, reduce traffic, contribute to personal health and fitness, and reduce travel time all with a simple change in approach was literally thrown into the laps of a bureaucracy which would never on its own have created such an excellent solution to the horrendous problem its system (for protecting us from those foreigners) had itself created. But that same bureaucracy could not accept the posssibility of an adjustment to that system, and the solution was summarily rejected.

While this may be an insult for San Diego, it should be regarded as a real embarassment for the nation.

How do we get out of this hole?

[This goy would wear it as a badge of honor, if he could imagine it involved any merit on his part.]

Tonight I was surprised to find myself the target in a classic and somewhat extended anti-semitic confrontation.

While Barry and I were waiting to enter the Greenwich House Theater this evening, a blond, sixty-ish, middle-class woman (she looked like she lived in the Village, perhaps as a retired schoolteacher) walked up to me and peered closely at my slash war button. She mumbled something about having initially thought it was a slash Bush button, adding, "jews hate Bush," and walked on.

I asked Barry what she had said about jews, and he confirmed what I thought I had heard. I chased after and confronted her, to ask whether she had really said that. (At this point I actually thought there was a chance we had misunderstood or had missed some New York irony.) But no, she repeated that jews hate Bush and asked if I hated Bush. I told her I thought Bush was a dangerous idiot and she asked if I was jewish. I asked her why she was asking such a question. She could only reply that jews hate Bush and then insisted repeatedly that I was Jewish. A small crowd was gathering at this point and the play was to begin soon, so I left her wading in her hateful paranoia with the gentle suggestion that she should seek help.

The entire experience was incredibly disturbing for both of us, not least because of the nature of the beast, and the turf.

It's tough enough being queer, lefty, atheist, and philo-semitic in Manhattan. How do people survive in the hinterland?

p.s. The play was quite wonderful.

Well, we returned from the Old Country monday night, but I've been delaying my return to this log, because, why? I wanted to reopen with something special? I was feeling shy? I wanted to enjoy the time off? Maybe extend the vacation mellowness, absent the horrible burden of American political stupidity, a bit further, maybe even indefinitely? Actually I think I can lay most of the blame on the effects of a major jetlag blah, or possibly an incipient headcold, or both.

I can't begin to describe the trip itself, especially since Barry has already done it so well (he took his iBook with him, by golly), and you can check it out at Ok, maybe I'll post some photos in the near future.

Europe was super, as always (well, maybe there were some problems earlier in the twentieth century, but they've moved beyond the kind of monstrous idiocy which dominates our own society right now). The only real downer was the getting to and coming from. One young bellman in Vienna asked me how long it had taken to drive from New York. I might have misunderstood his question (German was not the first language for either of us), but I wish there was a real answer. I'd rather drive five thousand miles each way (although a train would be even better) than ever have to endure another transatlantic flight. Yuck. And we even had the not inconsequential advantages of Business Class!

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