Politics: December 2002 Archives

This holiday message comes from the de facto leader of the nation which dominates the world:

CRAWFORD, Texas/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Bush warned a world partying into the New Year that Iraq had the power to unleash economic chaos if given the chance to mount an attack on the United States.
Can he explain why Iraq would want to do that? The country has not been controlled for forty years by a nincompoop.

Which suggests the next question: Could our own leader look any more stupid? Could we look more stupid?

Just wait and see.

We've been aware for a long time that ours is not a secular society, and in fact that ours is not a secular government, in spite of the purpose of its founders and the Constitution's intended guarantees of freedom of and from religion, but the current, legitimacy-challenged administration, along with some of its religious allies, goes too far in this as so many other of its impulses for mischief.

The NYTimes has it pretty much together on this subject in a lead editorial this morning. It begins:

President Bush punched a dangerous hole in the wall between church and state earlier this month by signing an executive order that eases the way for religious groups to receive federal funds to run social services programs. The president's unilateral order, which wrongly cut Congress out of the loop, lets faith-based organizations use tax dollars to win converts and gives them a green light to discriminate in employment. It should be struck down by the courts
The editorial includes a timely warning about the danger of governments with confessional associations, even if it describes a somewhat imaginary American history of independent church and state relations.
It is ironic that President Bush is working to tear down the separation of church and state at home, given the battles he is waging abroad. It is clearer today than ever that one of America's greatest strengths is that we are a nation in which people are free to practice any faith or no faith, and the government keeps out of the religious realm.

If we survive as a republic, it won't be because we ignored the people who want to destroy it. Columbia save the activists!

DENVER, Dec. 14 — The Denver police have gathered information on unsuspecting local activists since the 1950's, secretly storing what they learned on simple index cards in a huge cabinet at police headquarters.

When the cabinet filled up recently, the police thought they had an easy solution. For $45,000, they bought a powerful computer program from a company called Orion Scientific Systems. Information on 3,400 people and groups was transferred to software that stores, searches and categorizes the data.

Then the trouble began.

After the police decided to share the fruits of their surveillance with another local department, someone leaked a printout to an activist for social justice, who made the documents public. The mayor started an investigation. People lined up to obtain their files. Among those the police spied on were nuns, advocates for American Indians and church organizations.

As citizens, we do not have a right to just ignore what's going on.

I had the privilege of watching New York City Councilmember Christine Quinn in action this afternoon.

Well, actually I admit she was only idling, compared to what she can do when warmed up and ready to open the throttle all the way. Today she was just in perfect tune with both her case and the venue. While she still blew away her colleagues and the witnesses before the committees with her intelligence and her focus, the real battle will be engaged in January.

The occasion this afternoon was a City Council joint meeting, in Council Chambers, of the Committees on Economic Development; Transportation; Waterfronts. The subject was, officially, "What the Olympic Games would mean for waterfront development, waterborne transportation, and waterfront habitats in New York City," but until an hour and a half into the session, when Chris began to speak, it was basically a polite reception for a show-and-tell, or dog-and-pony show, by Daniel Doctoroff, a Deputy Mayor in the Giuliani administation and now founder and president of NYC2012, the committee charged with bringing the Olympics to New York City ten years from now.

The merits of a plan to bring the Olympics to New York City were not the subject of discussion today, but I was not made more comfortable with the idea by listening to Doctoroff start out by raving about his first soccer game experience during the recent World Cup games sited within our own borders, and especially when he exclaimed about how fantastic it was to be able to watch the teams "inject national fervor into the sport." Um, I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't believe nationalism is or should be a standard for the sports experience, and it definitely was neither part of the ancient Olympic ideal nor that of those who resurrected it over a hundred years ago. I don't have to even mention the horrors of soccer riots past and present around the world, all of which are the consequence of "national (or regional) fervor" and not of the spirit of the melting pot or of the Doctoroff's organization's description of New York, "The World's Second Home."

Anyway, the Doctoroff group's plan includes covering over extensive railroad yard areas, a massive increase in the area of the Javits Convention Center and a giant new sports stadium, all of which would be located at the top of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood and to the west and south of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, both densely residential. Not incidently, that part of our Olympic bid will require a $2 Billion bond issue from the City of New York. Chris, who represents both districts, is opposed to the construction of a mammoth commercial sports stadium in the midst of a vulnerable residential community which hopes to escape the congestion and the junk which stadium areas attract. She was definitely the first speaker of the day to ask any probing questions of the well-rehearsed visiting Olympics boosters. On this the first of a number of hearing days however she was clearly holding back from a real confrontation with a plan so badly misconceived, if not just cynical.

She pointed out that the plan for what was clearly an invasive stadium in the midst of these neighborhoods was essentially driven by professional sports team interests and she corrected Doctoroff by pointing out that, outside of the rail track yard itself, the area to be affected is definitely a populous community and not a wasteland. She reminded us all that there are in fact already several community-based development plans, that were painstakingly developed over a period of many years, for the areas which would be affected and they do not include a commercial stadium, and finally she reached into her own experience of many years as an advocate in that part of the borough to assert that without a shadow of a doubt the community's public transport problems definitely have never included the lack of a No. 7 subway line extension. Such a major extension constitutes the much balleyhooed key to the Olympic stadium plan, and the only part of the plan which would have to almost immediately if it is to be completed by the 2012 Olympics (which are still not a sure thing for the City).

In the end she asked what was in the plan for the West Side community; could it be reconciled with what that community really needs?

Doctoroff could basically only answer that his proposal sought to "change the neighborhood," an answer which would only sound stupid, if not totally chilling, to those who already were a part of a real neighborhood.

There will be more hearings, and I intend to be there for the real sparks. The next one is scheduled for January 30 (time not yet announced), and anyone is free to speak. This one should be a blast.

I'd rather see it fought on grounds even more essentially moral, but this one will definitely do.

As the Bush administration draws up plans to simplify the tax system, it is also refining arguments for why it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers.

Economists at the Treasury Department are drafting new ways to calculate the distribution of tax burdens among different income classes, which are expected to highlight what administration officials see as a rising tax burden on the rich and a declining burden on the poor.

Anyone out there think it's not time to honor Jefferson's maxim, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants"*? Ok, maybe we can avoid the blood, but only one side has been engaged in a class war up to now.

* Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Stephen Smith, November 13, 1787, in Albert Fried, Ed., The Essential Jefferson (Collier Books, 1963), p. 264.

So reads the excellent headline on Stanley Crouch's excellent column in today's Daily News.

My favorite sentences, here pulled out separately from the whole:

What stands before the Republican Party, however, is something much deeper than the Day-Glo red in Brother Lott's neck.

We have to remember that white Southerners were Democrats because the party of Lincoln had won the Civil War (which Lott has referred to as "the war of Northern aggression").

After Johnson's burst of civil rights legislation, the old-time religion of racism lost its power in Democratic Party circles, and reluctant ex-segregationists began to join up with the Republicans, who made them feel at home.

If the Republicans are not what white racists think they are, they need to raise their elephant bottoms up off the dime and get to work.

Long before his name was even mentioned as a presidential candidate, Bush told me in Texas that if the Republican Party did not expand itself beyond its white base, it would die. Though I doubt it, let us hope he was right.

Die. Yeah, die would be better for all of us.

this spunky little site makes a fine statement.

Maybe it looks a little chauvinistic, but if it helps to direct a boastful nation to its ideals, I can take the bunting and the suggestion of former virtue.

Following the unsuccesful American-backed military coup in Venezuela last April, when asked whether the Bush administration now recognizes Mr. Chávez as the nation's legitimate president, one White House official replied, "He was democratically elected," then added, "Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however."

Yes, here in the U.S. we understand exactly what he meant, and this week Washington is saying it again. The Bush gang wants a change in the regime in Caracas as soon as possible, and is saying so publicly.

But are they out of their minds? Considering the motives and mindset in question, I shouldn't bother asking. But what about everybody else: Venezuelans, South Americans, Americans not part of the U.S. ruling oligarchy, the rest of the world? Nicholas Kristof, writing from Caracas, thinks they're all "playing with fire."

The international community is playing a very dangerous game here in Venezuela, along with self-described democrats who are calling for military intervention. To consider what could go wrong, just look next door at Colombia, torn apart by civil war for half a century.


A Venezuelan journalist I met, Francisco Toro, is strongly against Mr. Chávez but also worries about the consequences of his removal. "In Colombia in 1948, the oligarchs assassinated [the populist leader Jorge] Gaitán," Mr. Toro said, "because he represented a particular problem that they wanted to solve. They never dreamed that 54 years later, Colombia would still be in civil war. You know how something like this starts, but you don't know how it ends."

Those who know me have seen the blue button I have been wearing for the past two months, and some already know what it means.

If you are still curious, or if anyone else reading this might be curious, please go to the Blue Button Project site, for the source, in art and conscience, of this emblem of resistance.

I always have extra buttons for those who will wear them.

Lott stays, for now, sorta hanging out there in the breeze for all to enjoy, neck in a noose; Kissinger drops out, deciding he can't take the heat just yet, will wait for the fires of hell; and Cardinal Outlaw is down for the count after fleeing to his earthly holy father.

It's been a great day, but there's mountains of work left out there. The real Mr. Bigs are still standing, everywhere.

Because of an experience of my own, Pinter's introductory analogy reads as particularly genuine, but the main text of this address should read as genuine to all.

By Earlier this year, I had a major operation for cancer. The operation and its after effects were something of a nightmare. I felt I was a man unable to swim bobbing about under water in a deep dark endless ocean. But I did not drown and I am very glad to be alive.

However, I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world.

Can we all agree on one thing? If there realy were a god, he wouldn't be working with a Cardinal Law.

Law's outrageous assaults upon those who trusted him, and those who never would, did not begin or end with the messy issue of sexual abuse currently in headlines around the world.

He represented, with an energy and enthusiasm uncommon even among his colleagues, the Roman Catholic Church's disastrous, authoritarian and evangelical global policies on AIDS, abortion, same-sex marriages, women's health care, public education and public health policy.

Preaching from Church pulpits soon afer his appointment in Boston, he told Catholics to vote against the Democratic White House candidates in 1984, Walter Mondale-Geraldine Ferraro, because of Mrs Ferraro's support for abortion, and he never relented in his political partisanship, if it could mean advancing the narrow obsesssive agenda and the economic, social and political power of the Catholic fanaticism he and his office embodied so well.

Good riddance, but Law's lone departure is not likely to change a thing, for while the people of the Boston area are being delivered of one miserable wretch, the damage remains, and the mischief continues there and throughout this nation and across the planet, nasty stuff worthy neither of gods nor men.

Awwww. That's so sweet. It's nice to know that Christian tourists may not be too discomfited by the repeated brutal Israeli invasions of Palestinian Bethlehem during this joyful Christmas season. Resident Palestinian muslims however, including especially the elected Palestinian leader, need not apply.

VATICAN CITY - Israel's president promised the pope during a meeting yesterday that the army will redeploy outside the pilgrim city of Bethlehem during Christmas if there are no warnings of terrorist attacks, the Israeli Embassy said.

I say, Please, please, please don't get rid of Trent Lott!

After Bush himself, Lott is the most spectacular evidence we have for the stupidity, disconnectedness and pure malevolence that has descended upon Washington.

For those who might worry about his continued presence as the second-highest ranking of the elected and almost-elected officials in the land, I can't imagine how Lott can create any more mischief than his Republican colleagues would eagerly without his coaching, so keeping him visible could actually do less harm than good.

Jonathan Capehart may only be pretty, dumb and clueless, but his popularity with the media as a safe right-wing gay spokesperson, exceeded only by another establishment lacky, Andrew Sullivan, is more than just an embarassment to thinking and caring queers everywhere; it's a very real threat to our survival, especially the survival of those who are most vulnerable.

In a column appearing today in the NY Daily News, he tells us that Tom Duane is "potentially standing in the way of gay rights." Capehart simply cannot understand why Duane, a privileged young urban professional like himself, someone who is already protected where he lives by New York City's human rights law, would be so interested in protecting people supposedly very unlike himself, the transgendered, by insisting that they be included in New York State's own incredibly-long-overdue Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA).

And let's be honest: Transgender issues are difficult for most people to understand. Even in Albany - where they have no problem passing complex budget bills with only a few minutes' review - the notion of extending protection to men and women who feel they were born the wrong gender would be hard to grasp.
Could the answer be that the honorable Mr. Duane can actually see, and smell, beyond his nose, that he knows and understands the people who most need the protection which would be provided by SONDA, and that they are not newspaper columnists and state senators? Could it also be that he understands that he serves an entire community, and that he believes that such service demands courage and not merely professional calculation? Unless he realy believes the stuff he writes, Mr. Capehart should be asking himself about courage and calculation.

Employing the wisdom he reveals in his columns some forty years later, would Mr. Capehart have suggested to Martin Luther King, Jr., in the sixties that the stuggle for civil rights could collapse if King did not limit his initial objective to securing protections for those blacks who were most white?

The UN is dead!

The organization operates as an arm of our de facto executive in Washington or not at all, and this week it physically, if not formally, handed over its responsibilities to the White House when it gave its occupants the only copy of Iraq's response to the Security Council declaration. Huh? The world will never see that full text again, especially since much of what it contains is obviously such an embarassment, and not just to the U.S.

The League of Nations was done in by the fascists in the twenties and thirties, its successor by American corporate imperialists in the aughts. I'm actually surprised we took so long.

Long live the EU!

Is it impossible to imagine replacing the concept of a League of, or a United, Nations with a world society formed voluntarily by emulation of, if not a real lust for physical intimacy with, the mature, very attractive and successful culture, polity and economy represented by the European Union? I can imagine that, as an alternative to the U.S. alone, we might eventually see the concept of "Europe" erase its association with geography and history and become a model, if not a magnet, for diverse peoples around the world. It's not perfect, but the European federal approach currently has no real competition in a world which resists American imperialism.

As a nation, if not as a society, the U.S. doesn't seem to be able to anything very well just now (except weaponry and the commercial marketing of popular culture), and this isn't hard to see if you take a serious look around. We're living off capital at the moment. But regardless of how good or bad we may think we look to ourselves, we just don't look that good any more to people on the outside, and we're looking worse every day. Most alarming is the fact that even Americans who see this clearly, just don't give a damn, or they are convinced that nothing can change it. I think the world sees this.

Damn! It should have worked. We had it all, and it looks like we really fucked it up. It's all very sad.

(the American radicals, that is)

History says, Don't hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up

And hope and history rhyme.

--Seamus Heaney

A son of the Weathermen, son of four of them, as it turned out, has been named as one of 32 American winners of this year's Rhodes scholarships.

He is now 22, and since his birth parents have been in prison since he was fourteen months old, he was raised by two other weathermen leaders [one of whom had a memoir published, fatefully, on September 11, 2001].

As with the other triumphs of his young life, Chesa Boudin was unable to celebrate with his parents on Saturday afternoon when he was named a Rhodes scholar. He could not even share the good news.

As maximum-security inmates in the New York State prison system, Katherine Boudin and David Gilbert are barred from receiving telephone calls or e-mail messages. Though Mr. Boudin has rigged his dorm room at Yale University to override the block on collect calls, neither parent was able to connect with him today. They will read of their son's accomplishment in the newspaper, instead, and it may be days before they can congratulate him.

While he has spoken widely and intelligently about all four of his parents' experiences, Chesa Boudin prefers to talk about his own world right now.
"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now — now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism," Mr. Boudin said. "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."

"I don't know that much about my parents' tactics; I'll talk about my tactics," he added. "The historical moment we find ourselves in determines what is most appropriate for social change."

Incidently, does anyone else reading this NYTimes account find the terms of Boudin's birth-parents incarceration, restricting communication with their only child, worthy of a culture which pretends to worship family values and which denies it has political prisoners?

only welfare programs for corporations are moral in the American political ethos

Could they make the nexus any more clear?

A special government board earlier this week rejected a $1.8 billion loan guarantee request by troubled United Airlines. On friday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert blasted the move to deny a federal bailout of a major employer in his home state of Illinois.

"This is clearly a wrongheaded decision for our nation's economy on so many grounds," Hastert said in an usually strongly worded statement.

Hastert, a Republican, led a high-profile lobbying campaign on behalf of Chicago-based United, which employs 83,000 people and could be headed for bankruptcy court in the coming days.

He discussed the matter with President Bush and his senior economic advisers, including ousted Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in the weeks before Wednesday's decision by the Air Transportation Stabilization Board.

The only surprise is the government's initial rejection of the request, especially in the face of such pressures. Yes, the issues are complex, the good guys are not facing off neatly against the bad guys, and the story isn't over yet. We can be certain however that the big money will make the decision in the end, and most of the messiness will not be visible to us.

--that the man sometimes described as the President of The United States is capable of awesome profundity. To wit:

"Sometimes, Washington is one of these towns where the person—people who think they've got the sharp elbow is the most effective person." —New Orleans, Dec. 3, 2002

"These people don't have tanks. They don't have ships. They hide in caves. They send suiciders out."—Speaking about terrorists, Portsmouth, N.H., Nov. 1, 2002

"If you don't have any ambitions, the minimum-wage job isn't going to get you to where you want to get, for example. In other words, what is your ambitions? And oh, by the way, if that is your ambition, here's what it's going to take to achieve it."—Speech to students in Little Rock, Ark., Aug. 29, 2002

"Nothing he [Saddam Hussein] has done has convinced me—I'm confident the Secretary of Defense—that he is the kind of fellow that is willing to forgo weapons of mass destruction, is willing to be a peaceful neighbor, that is—will honor the people—the Iraqi people of all stripes, will—values human life. He hasn't convinced me, nor has he convinced my administration."—Crawford, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002

Sleep tight.

Fortunately we have already seen an enormous number of articulate essays expressing outrage that Henry Kisssinger has been appointed to head the outrageously tardy formation of a commission charged with investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept.11. Here's another.

Unfortunately, nothing will come of this outrage and we will remain saddled with what the world will see as a cover-up constructed by political insiders and presided over by a man who has managed to ensure that most of his own sordid career remains a closed book, a man, incidently, who currently cannot travel outside this country without risking subpoena or arrest in connection with war crimes for which he is alleged to be responsible. Nice start for reassuring the world of our virtue and innocence.

The "war crime" charge against Kissinger became something of a scare in London earlier this year. During Kissinger's visit to Royal Albert Hall, human rights activists staged a protest, some banging drums and chanting "evil war criminal" outside. Peter Tatchell had just lost a court fight to have Kissinger jailed for the "killing, injuring and displacement" of some 3 million Vietnamese and Cambodians during America's military involvement in Indochina. Earlier, the Spanish judge who prosecuted Gen. Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity had tried to get permission to question Kissinger in the case. Specifically, the judge was interested in Kissinger's possible knowledge or involvement in a plan Latin America's military regimes had employed to get rid of their opposition. The British Home Office denied the judge permission to question Kissinger during his visit to London.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from December 2002.

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