General: September 2007 Archives

drum corps section

the vanguard

past the Stonewall site

the campaign theme

not as bad as it looks

the curious gather on the sidewalks

We're saying the First Amendment isn't just for the homos.

It was a fabulous party. First, it was safe (no assaults and no arrests), but it was really fun, it was beautiful, it broadcast the issue, and on top of another event earlier this week, it looks like that issue now has real momentum.

Last night's Parade Without A Permit, put together by The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] and its allies, was the second in what is likely to be a continuing series.

Progressing through streets filled with surprised and delighted diners and party goers enjoying the warm evening air of a Saturday in autumn, somewhere between 150 and 200 colorful and energetic activists broadcast the word about City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support of new NYPD rules restricting free assembly. The group started inside Washington Square Park, accompanied by signs and outrunners with informative pink paper flyers and led by banners and a snappy percussion section. The party wound its way through the West Village, Quinn's own district, for more than two and a half hours before dispersing from Pier 45 at Christopher Street.

Surprisingly the "unpermitted" assembly, was neither broken up nor even seriously provoked by the police. In fact the few uniformed people visible last night performed the kind of martial duties which groups like ACT UP have historically assigned to themselves, halting vehicle traffic for the protest's passage across streets and then, most remarkable of all, letting it take most of the width of Eighth Avenue all the way to 15th Street. At that point the parade turned left and then left again to head back into the Village. The police disappeared at about the same time.

Did the NYPD get the word from Quinn's office to see that nothing untoward would happen to the queers and their friends, or was the Department's low-key handling of the event just part of its historical and notorious pattern of arbitrary enforcement of the law? Also, "good cop" one day, "bad cop" the next, was something we experienced throughout the years of ACT UP's biggest actions. You never knew when you were safe, and you don't today, especially if no one is watching.

One of the most striking images of the evening was presented early on, when the ragtag (I mean that in the very best sense) procession passed the site of Stonewall Inn, where the modern homosexual movement began.

The pictures above and on Flickr and on other sites show the diversity of the protesters, in age, gender, sexuality, race and mobility, one of the most satisfactory elements of a evening of empowerment.

Not only is the First Amendment, and freedom from an arbitrary police force in general, not just for homos, these rights must not be secured only for a queer elite and "decent citizens" of other descriptions. Reflecting today on what was accomplished last night, Andy Podell, a member of RHA, warns:

We have used our position as relatively-privileged queer activists to advocate for freedom of assembly and against police harrassement of queers and activists. At some point our rallying cry of last night, "We don't need a permit", becomes a little easy and self-indulgent. We don't need a permit because at this time a city councilperson doesn't want to fuck with us because we're queer and have connections and it would be bad publicity for her.

Like the well-connected SRLP [Silvia Rivera Law Project], the intervention of Quinn in getting the charges dropped against Wed's night's arrestees does not mean that the NYPD will stop harrassing trans people or people of color or queers. I'd like to see the RHA up the ante in connecting with people who get picked on by Quinn or the NYPD outside of the eye of the queer media (it might not even be queers).

It's probably just a (very minor) fantasy of my own, and it will probably stay that way, but for the next parade I'd love to see a pink and black fife player added to the excellent drum corps: For me it's the original Revolution image, but this second one might just be led by queers - of every description.

I've put more images of the evening on Flickr.


The Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA] logo incorporates the group's Regulation Pink Gasmask, which has been donned by members since 2006 while they pursue their perilous mission fighting the American mainstream - an environment which they argue, and few would dispute, is presently toxic for queers.

They're back. The RHA loves a parade - for a good cause. Even if they may be more sensitive than some folks about the Lesbian author of the outrage against which they've been protesting, being queers themselves, the RHA has been fighting for all of America on this one.

Five months ago this young, spirited New York civil rights group stepped off from City Hall Park on a sunny afternoon in a colorful un-permitted parade of fellow citizens (both homosexual and otherwise engaged) to protest New York City's new and totally-unconstitutional police rule restricting freedom of assembly and speech. On Saturday, in another "Parade Without a Permit", they take their costumes, props and merry bands, bicycles and carts and strong legs on a more ambitious, a more public tour. This time the neighborhood will be the dense residential and commercial blocks of the West Village, the district represented by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn is the main target of the RHA's anger because of her prominent role in the promulgation, without review, discussion or vote, of draconian rules which cede dangerous arbitrary power to the police.

This hot new band of activists and its growing numbers of allies will together be doing their best to broadcast that Quinn's position as an out queer with a progressive, largely queer constituency on which she has built her career up to now is totally at odds with her position on a principle of law so fundamental to the political life of a free society. The RHA and its friends have other serious complaints about our ambitious Speaker's positions and agenda, but this issue trumps everything else: The right to speak and to demonstrate about any subject is on the line in this city today.

The parade assembles in Washington Square Park at 7 pm this Saturday, September 29, at the edge of the central fountain. The event is absolutely not envisioned as an arrest scenario by any of its organizers, so everyone is encouraged to join the serious merriment.

For more information, see the RHA's new, James Wentzy-built website. I have it on good authority that there will be no speeches on Saturday, so maybe a visit to the site is an even better idea than it would be prior to most demos; everyone should be ready with a good sound bite at these things.

NEWS FLASH: It's just been confirmed that the Stonewall Veterans are going to be a part of this parade, front and center. Now I'm thinking, pink-and-black-draped pedicab chariots conveying our noble ur-rebels through the streets past the sites which were the scenes of their triumphs almost forty years ago. Take that, all you soft, smug folk who ever imagined you could even be the cuttings of the giants who opened the doors you pass through so easily today.

[image from the RHA]

hanging out in a park and free bike repair station on 7th Avenue at Charles yesterday

Park(ing) Day, it's about serious greenstreets

See Jim Dwyer's column for a word picture of the larger footprint of New York's part in the event, organized by the Trust for Public Land.

Another piece in the NYTimes reported:

The city’s Transportation Department does not know the total number of parking spaces in the city, but according to Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, 45 percent of public land in Manhattan is dedicated to moving and storing cars.
That's a pretty impressive figure, especially since the total area of "public land" would include Central Park and every other square foot of park and sidewalk.

NOTES: I found the wonderful Barbara Ross photograph [earlier credited on the flickr site to Mike Pidell, who is actually in the photo instead] at the top of this entry while looking for pictures of yesterday's events. The unremarkable image of the sign is mine. Finally, before I was told that the photo had mistakenly been credited to Pidell, while I was searching for a way I could link to him I located this delightful five-minute bike clown video from last year, "Bike Lane Liberation".

[with thanks to Tim Doody, image by Barbara Ross from flickr]

Travis Lindquist [image protected here from viewers]

In Williamsburg last Friday evening Barry and I had just come from a reception and we had a little time to kill before the 7 o'clock hour when the galleries we had planned to visit would be opening their doors for this month's "Williamsburg Every Second".

We were in a festive mood.

We walked over to Capla Kesting to take a look at their Travis Lindquist show. I wasn't very interested in most of the work, but the relatively arcane historical references in some of the drawings arranged in an interesting way on the center wall induced me to take a closer look. I decided to capture a few images for consideration later. I had already taken several photographs when I was told by a woman who was apparently connected to the gallery that they had their own shots of the work and most of them were available on their own site. I started to explain that I liked to capture my own images for my artblog and I would have gone on to try to explain exactly why, but I was interrupted by some words to the effect that they have to "protect the copyright", and I was told that I would not be allowed to photograph the art.

I tried to at least explain what I had been doing and I reached for a card to introduce myself and my site, but neither she nor David Kesting, the Proprietor, would have any of it. Neither wanted to know who I was, but they definitely wanted me out. I told Barry, who had not been a part of any of this exchange, that I wanted to leave. As we turned to go Kesting yelled after us, "Don't come back, you hear?!"

I wouldn't think of it.

Also, to avoid some questions in the future, I should add here that since ArtCal is "The Opinionated New York Art Guide" and as it is the opinion of its editors that Capla Kesting Fine Art has chosen to restrict the public's visual access to visual art, the gallery will not be included in its listings from this date.


the Realpolitiker's very favorite Tracht

UPDATE: For concerned citizens of the world who might find the information useful, I've learned that Kissinger is expected to speak at the Parade Gala Benefit Banquet scheduled for 7 o'clock tonight, Friday, at the New York Hilton & Towers, 1335 Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets.

Would somebody please tell the folks behind New York's German American Steuben Parade that having Henry Kissinger as a grand marshal is not cool at all. The kind of war crimes for which this man is wanted by governments in a number countries all over the world may be very American these days, but that doesn't mean any ethnic group should be proud to be associated with their author, even if it has a tenuous relationship with the land of his birth.

I'm an American of unmixed German ancestry going back generations, I've studied U.S. and German history, and I've studied and lived here and in Deutschland, so I might be given some leave to say that I suspect the folks living in what the chairman of Saturday's event calls the "alte Heimat" would not be so thick as some of their cousins over here seem to be. German Germans also generally know their history pretty well - for significant historical and moral reasons.

The big event is scheduled for this Saturday. I have to be in Greenpoint that afternoon, or I'd be there physically to remind him that not all of us have forgotten what he's done. The parade starts at noon, and runs uptown on Fifth Avenue, starting at 63 Street and ending at 86 Street. I'm not sure how these thing work, that is, I don't know where a so-called Grand Marshal might best be spotted, but there is a reviewing stand somewhere along the route of the march.


[David Levine image from The Corsair]

"Thinking about animals"

He was probably already my favorite member of the paper's staff, but a short piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in today's NYTimes was worth far more than the price of admission. He is writing about Alex, the extraordinary African Grey parrot who died last week ["Brainy Parrot Dies, Emotive to the End"], and this is much of what he concludes, about Alex - and ourselves:

A truly dispassionate observer might argue that most Grey parrots could probably learn what Alex had learned, but only a microscopic minority of humans could have learned what Alex had to teach. Most humans are not truly dispassionate observers. We’re too invested in the idea of our superiority to understand what an inferior quality it really is. I always wonder how the experiments would go if they were reversed — if, instead of us trying to teach Alex how to use the English language, Alex were to try teaching us to understand the world as it appears to parrots.

These are bottomless questions, of course. For us, language is everything because we know ourselves in it. Alex’s final words were: “I love you.”

There is no doubt that Alex had a keen awareness of the situations in which that sentence is appropriate — that is, at the end of a message at the end of the day. But to say whether Alex loved the human who taught him, we’d have to know if he had a separate conceptual grasp of what love is, which is different from understanding the context in which the word occurs. By any performative standard — knowing how to use the word properly — Alex loved Dr. Pepperberg [Dr. Irene Pepperberg, Alex's companion and student].

Beyond that, only our intuitions, our sense of who that bird might really be, are useful. And in some ways this is also a judgment we make about loving each other.

To wonder what Alex recognized when he recognized words is also to wonder what humans recognize when we recognize words. It was indeed surprising to realize how quickly Alex could take in words and concepts.

Scientifically speaking, the value of this research lies in its specific details about patterns of learning and cognition. Ethically speaking, the value lies in our surprise, our renewed awareness of how little we allow ourselves to expect from the animals around us


[image by Mike Lovett from NYTimes]

a very rewarding friendship (Blessed Teresa greeting friend Charles Keating)

On this tenth anniversary of the demise of Mother Teresa, the acclaimed world-champion of suffering and death [whose lifer inmates were refused even aspirin, but who died only after availing herself of the very finest and most expensive medical treatment available in the West], I can no longer stay silent.

I've written at some length about the mutha before, and I was going to ignore the outrageous outpouring of memorials which have attended this happy date until just now, when I came upon an editorial in today's NYTimes with the oddly-equivocal headline, "A Saint of Darkness". This is ostensibly a secular journal, but it's a sappy paean and it ends with an extraordinary reference to the grotesque Catholic cult figure's supposed struggles against religious disbelief. These gilded lines would almost certainly embarrass even the National Catholic Reporter:

Mother Teresa, sick with longing for a sense of the divine, kept faith with the sick of Calcutta. And now, dead for 10 years, she is poised to reach those who can at last recognize, in her, something of their own doubting, conflicted selves.

And now, as we're told by the Church, her agent, she herself belongs to the gods.

But not so fast. There is another, less fictive take on this wretched creature than that so successfully hyped around the Western world. The Times editorial board itself may be of more than one mind on the subject of the "just-say-no-to-drugs-and-yes-to-Jesus nunnery fund-raiser and baptism zealot. On this same holy day, on the opposite page from the editorial they also publish an OP-ED piece by Chitrita Banerji, "Poor Calcutta", which delivers a very different slant on the story of the woman with the current Vatican title, "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta". Banerji is speaking first for the dignity of her hometown Calcutta [I share her love for that magnificent city], which she argues the scary nun and her fanatical acolytes have savaged in the public mind, but her defense requires some bluntness about the fundamental error of the campaign. Here are two excerpts:

[The worldwide condemnation of Calcutta over other cities] was an instance of spin in which the news media colluded — voluntarily or not — with a religious figure who was as shrewd as any fund-raising politician, as is evident from the global expansion of her organization. For Calcutta natives like me, however, Mother Teresa’s charity also evoked the colonial past — she felt she knew what was best for the third world masses, whether it was condemning abortion or offering to convert those who were on the verge of death.

. . . .

[Banerji writes that she had hoped that after the nun's death the balance of perception might be restored to her beloved city] Ten years and one beatification later, however, the relentless hagiography of the Catholic Church and the peculiar tunnel vision of the news media continue to equate Calcutta with the twinned entities of destitution and succor publicized by Mother Teresa. With cultish fervor, her organization, the Missionaries of Charity, promotes her as an icon of mercy. Meanwhile, countless unheralded local organizations work for the needy without the glamour of a Nobel Prize or of impending sainthood.

Once again, on the true nature of Mother Superior Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity: No medical care was given to any of the people to whom members of her oder "ministered"; the Mother had a creepy lust for suffering; even by its founder's own admission she was only interested in racking up the maximum numbers of "souls" for the next life; to that end any friendship, any kind of transaction was appropriate; and finally, the earthly Church she represented was not the compassionate institution imagined by many of her patrons, but rather one whose elements would be unrecognizable to even the most conservative of Catholics.

This sounds like they would want to create hell everywhere on earth; it would hardly seem to be a good advertisement for their regime in heaven, but what do I know about the attraction of marketing, fads, bandwagons or cults?

[image from]

(but right, even laudable, if I paid women for quickies)

The Republicans have trashed and now unceremoniously sacked one of their very own worthy gentlemen for soliciting consensual, uncompensated sex with another person. Senator Craig was forced to resign only days after his sensational misstep (with another man) was reported in the media.

A year ago another model Republican, Representative Mark Foley, was hounded out of office for a peccadillo even less "awful" than that committed by the married-with-three-children Senator from Idaho. Foley, an unmarried man, sent suggestive emails and sexually explicit instant messages to young adult men who had formerly served or were at the time serving as Congressional pages.

A third Republican luminary, Senator David Vitter, admitted early in July to regularly soliciting the services of a female prostitute. There has been no investigation and no movement to oust Vitter from his elected position or party responsibilities, and in fact on his return to the senate floor later in the month Vitter was greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers.

Why is there such a difference in the way their colleagues treated these three members of Congress? Craig and Foley happened to be of what their former friends would call the homosexual "persuasion" but Vitter seems to be fixated on the role of lusty heterosexual.

Oh, there is the thing about the toilet venue of Craig's ruinous flirtation (Americans are obsessed with potties - all potties) and also the extraordinarily-significant fact that should Vitter resign his seat it would be filled by a Democrat named by the Democratic governor of Louisiana. Unfortunately for Craig the Governor of Idaho is a Republican. Foley's was an interesting case: It suggests that here the Republicans' sincere bigotry might have gotten the better of them since their hand-picked candidate to replace the homo failed to make it in the election which followed his resignation. Of course it could also have been the product of an excessive self-confidence, one which wouldn't have survived the last year of spiraling Republican disasters.

Of course I'm not going to contrast any of this with the Democrat's treatment of Jerry Studds and Barney Frank [neither lost his job], the Republican attitude toward Presidential sex, or toward Congressional corruption involving real crimes with real victims. And while I'm not speaking of real victims, I'm not going to speak about the real, countless, world-wide victims of the first eight and one half years of this Republican administration.

"Hypocrisy" is far too mild a word for this stuff.

[image by Tom Toles via Washington Post]

National Guardsmen firing into demonstrators during the 1894 Chicago Pullman strike* [contemporary Harpers Weekly drawing]

[Exactly five years ago today (I see now that it was almost to the minute) I did a post, "the real meaning of Labor Day". I think it's time to do it again. My own brief text was augmented with quotes from the site of Jim Lehrer's PBS show, NewsHour, a page which had appeared the year before. This year I've added an image.]

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

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

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

Happy Labor Day, but don't forget.

I haven't been able to find a really good compact summary of the strike anywhere on line, although there is this setting of the broader context in a discussion from Howard Zinn. I would definitely welcome any other suggestions. I can however offer information on some of the numbers involved in the physical conflict itself, quoted here from the Kansas Heritage Group:

The total forces of the strikebreakers both government and private were [against 100,000 strikers]: 1,936 federal troops, 4,000 national guardsmen, about 5,000 extra deputy marshals, 250 extra deputy sheriffs, and the 3,000 policemen in Chicago for a total of 14,186 strikebreakers. In addition to these figures there were also twelve people shot and killed, and 71 people who were arrested and sentenced on the federal indictment.
No picnic.

[image from Wikimedia Commons}

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