General: February 2003 Archives

My nephew, who regrets the limited instrumental recital opportunities available in his home in Brownsville, writes about something like a voice debut, in southern Texas streets February 15.


Among the millions of peace demonstrators out in the streets today, about 250 (of us) were marching on the scene in McAllen, Texas, the nearest rally to us in the Rio Grande Valley [about 50-60 miles from Pete and Michael's house]. With Michael's reassurance, I overcame my stage fright and agreed to an interview by a local television reporter, which lasted for about four minutes in front of the camera. I had a small degree of satisfaction (and immense relief) immediately afterward, feeling it had gone OK and musing that it might possibly help awaken others to understand and protest the recklessness of Bush's headlong rush into war.

My "interview" did air, but was distilled to 6 seconds of footage on the local ABC news channel tonight. (Isn't a sound bite supposed to be at least 8 seconds long ?) Fortunately for my vanity, there was nothing bizarre or embarrassing in my appearance or speech as captured on TV. However, considering how nerve-wracking it was to psych myself up to articulate my views like that publicly, it was frustrating watching the shallowness of the local news coverage; nobody is going to have their mind changed by 6 seconds of "discussion."

I'm left only with hoping that as a result of the novelty of my brief TV appearance, some of my neighbors or coworkers will be more curious about my convictions and ask me for more detail the next time I bump into them.

Take heart, I tell myself; it's good to face your fears, and stage fright has always been a big bugbear for me. Maybe this will help my poise someday during my next recital or concerto.


We love Pete and Michael.

I confess. [But is it ego or wanna-do-good works?] I've always felt that if I'm going to a protest or a demonstration and I don't intend to do something which would risk arrest, I've got to sport a good hand-lettered sign. For lots of people, costume or line dancing would be other possibilities, but I have a congenital problem with the concept of flashy, and that certainly limits the attention-getting options.

For the massive anti-war demonsration in New York today I decided to hoist a sign invoking the exhaustively repeated, truly magnificent cri of one of my French heroes [France was not an accidental reference in a week which saw the government of the American republic refer to the country which guaranteed our independence, our oldest and most loyal ally, as "old Europe" and a proper object of our disdain and scorn].

My shield read, "…crasez l'inf‚me!," and I wore a Jacobin cap. Pretty esoteric? Yeah, tons of people seemed totally nonplused by the foreign arrangement of letters, and the hat was just a stocking cap for most fellow marchers, but early in our progress up Fifth Avenue from the Public Library I was approached by a French Television crew and asked why I was carrying that sign.

Like a smart-aleck kid, I was delighted to be able to explain the English translation, "Crush the infamous thing!," and went on to describe my understanding of what Voltaire meant by "L'infame." I held it to refer to unreason, superstition, fundamentalism, arbitrary authority and the Bush White House. I admitted that Voltaire had been remarkably prescient 250 years ago when he included in his list of iniquities the current administration in Washington, and that my gratitude was accordingly that much more profound.

They asked more, about my current attitude toward France and toward the position of the French people and the French government on the subject of an Iraq war, and most significantly, about what I thought of the performance of the American media [ok, I admit I provoked that one].

They were very impressive. They had been following the legendary Florent Morillet and the GLAMericans since nine in the morning, and I'm very sorry I won't be able to see the product of their labors on French public television [The program, "Envoies Speciales," is something like the American institution, "60 Minutes." If anyone sees this segment somewhere in the french-speaking world, please let me know.].

My sign and I were hailed and saluted by a number of people all afternoon, many who understood the words and their origin, but many who did not and asked for particulars. The most gratifying encounters were with French citizens, but the most charming exchange may have been with the very attractive, young, Hunter College-type couple who asked. As soon as I mentioned "Voltaire," the woman gasped, blushed and shyly sighed that she should have remembered, since she had just read about him.

Thank you, La France.

Is this part of the many blessings being promised to New York if certain interests succeed in bringing the Olympics to the City in 2012?

Government troops massacred student protesters in Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City that night, on the eve of the 1968 Olympic Games, and then tried to wash away the blood, along with every trace of the killing.

. . .

"The army surrounded the square and fired from every angle on thousands of youths," the book says, leaving "hundreds of dead and wounded, thousands of arrests," followed by "the persecution and imprisonment of student leaders." [At least 275 subsequent killings were committed by the government, government investigation determined later.]

. . .

The 1968 killings were the beginning of a long government crackdown on its real and suspected enemies. Hundreds of people were killed over the next 15 years.

. . .

[The judgment of the country's leading historians is that] the killing at Tlatelolco was orchestrated at the highest levels of the government, with the intent of suppressing political unrest that could embarrass Mexico before the world at the Olympics.

Those sports fanatics go too far. And Mexico didn't even have the excuse September 11 will give our own thugs.

The complete quote, Albert Einstein's words, goes, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Well some righteous and very brave people people are doing something, and they are now risking their lives. We have to help them.

I just received the text of a report of a group of international activists being beaten and shot at by Israeli soldiers this week in occupied Palestinian territory. [No, the world hasn't really dropped everything, hasn't interrupted its abominations everywhere in order to be spectators of the Americans' own special nutiness and barbarity.] The account arrived in an email from my friend Steve, who has twice gone to Palestine with Jews Against the Occupation (JATO), and will return this summer.

The story doesn't easily lend itself to being excerpted, but it can be read on the website maintained by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). It may be enough to note that its major significance lies in what it reveals of the dangers increasing even for non-Palestinians, and the fact that this is most likely deliberate Israeli government policy.

I would like to take this opportunity to impress upon all our supporters that they are by no means helpless and that the success or failure of the ISM depends not only on the heroism of our activists in Palestine but also our supporters around the world.

We are convinced that these assaults on ISM activists are not merely a case of military indiscipline but of a deliberate campaign to intimidate our activists with the ultimate aim of driving them from areas such as Nablus so as to give the army a free hand in the area. By refusing to protest such violence against their nationals the governments of the West are not only failing in their responsibility to protect these peace activists but are also serving as accomplices to Israel's campaign of terrorism against the indigenous people of Palestine.

In the coming weeks America and its allies are expected to launch their war against Iraq. Many analysts believe that the Israeli's will seize the opportunity that the war presents to escalate its campaign of terror against the Palestinians with the aim of driving as many of them as possible from the Gaza Strip and the Occupied West Bank (ethnic cleansing). [Michael ISM Media Coordinator, Beit Sahour, Occupied Palestine]

I have as much of an imagination and as much hope for the possibilities of our species as the next person, and I believe in a space program. I just cannot understand how we can think that incurring the unnecessary expense of sending real bodies into orbit performing high school science projects, mostly to market voters, and corporate, military and Congressional interests for the support of other, serious NASA programs, is more important than securing health care for all of our people, something provided by every civilized nation on the planet.

How can we be proud as a nation of our efforts in space if we cannot give basic care to our people on earth? Once we ensure that everyone in the world's wealthiest country has health care, we might have the luxury of re-examining whether men and women are better astronauts than machines.

Paul Krugman has been thinking about this a lot.

But the shuttle program didn't suddenly go wrong last weekend; in terms of its original mission, it was a failure from the get-go. Indeed, manned space flight in general has turned out to be a bust.

We are America. We are a nation created by an idea, composed of people who did not start out as neighbors and who couldn't speak the same language, the fortunate child of change.

If we do not remain a nation of liberty and opportunity, available to people from all over the world, constantly reinventing ourselves, we will not remain a nation.

This will be true even if we end up the only state with access to fossil fuels and the only state with weapons of mass destruction.

What planet am I from? I had a quick glimpse of this segment of the ESPN subway advertising campaign just the other day, but I didn't believe the text was serious! This item from today's "Metropolitan Diary" feature in the NYTimes clued me in.

Dear Diary:

You can count on a New Yorker to critically assess any major advertising campaign. Take the current ESPN campaign that promotes the virtues of sports via posters on bus shelters and in subways. One poster shows a group of professional cheerleaders, complete with big hair, official uniforms and flat midriffs. "Without sports they'd just be dancers," the poster's headline reads.

But that poster was placed on the No. 1 train that runs along the West Side stopping near the Joyce Theater, the Broadway shows and the American Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center. A dancer (or dance appreciator), presumably, has cleverly amended the slogan by taping alternative signs on the second and sixth words.

The new, improved, and culturally correct poster of the cheerleaders now reads: "Without dance they'd just be trophies."

Ginger Curwen

This is New york, you idiots!

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