Politics: December 2003 Archives

As long as we're talking marriage and stuff, let me talk about Hillary, or rather let me report the noble Michelangelo Signorile talking about Hillary. Last week Signorile very efficiently answered a reader who was unable to reconcile New York's junior senator's very public statement's opposing gay marriage with what many people imagine to be her private opinions.

It honestly doesn’t matter what Hillary Clinton really thinks, since, on the record, she is opposed to same-sex marriage, end of story. To cut her any slack because she might truly have no problem with same-sex marriage but is being politically pragmatic would be no different than cutting George W. Bush slack for having gay friends yet supporting sodomy laws or the federal marriage amendment because he has to pander to the religious right.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way comparing Bush to Hillary, and she is light years ahead of him on gay civil rights. But politicians should only get points from us for what they’re willing to expend, not what they truly believe but don’t act on. In fact, they should get points deducted for not following through on their convictions.

I agree that Hillary’s opposition to same-sex marriage seems totally insincere. And I don’t believe for a minute that Bill Clinton believed in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—but he signed it nonetheless. It’s an annoying, sometimes enraging aspect of the Clintons, where they wimp out just when it really matters. And in the end, it usually turns out that they could have taken the chance with no repercussions. Does anyone really believe, in hindsight, that Bill Clinton would have suffered if he didn’t sign DOMA? If Hillary Clinton were truly a leader among the Democrats, as you describe her, she would be moving them on this issue. She has a lot of admirable traits, and she can count me as a fan in many respects. I also accept political pragmatism; sometimes it’s the way you have to go. But no, it doesn’t comfort me to imagine that Hillary does support same-sex marriage but is lying and in the process passing religious judgment—“It’s traditionally been between one man and one woman”—on us. And it shouldn’t comfort you either.

Lest I myself be accused of fomenting a one-note anti-Hillary campaign, can I remind all of us that she voted for the Patriot Act and the Iraq War resolution? Moreover, her responsibility, which her husband must share, for the failure of health care reform during President Clinton's administration is almost as profound as that of the drug and insurance lobby.

I'm sorry, I can see absolutely no reason for her popularity with any groups or individuals today, just as I still cannot understand why she was once so viciously demonized when she was the wife of a governor and later of a president.


I'd vote for absolutely any donkey in sight if doing so would get rid of the missile-in-a-horse's-ass sitting in the White house now, but there's only one Democrat in the race I could support absolutely without any hesitation.

Dennis Kucinich appears to be so good it's a little scary.

I'll try to explain, and I'll make it short and to the point, by pointing to Paul Schindler's account [in an issue of Gay City News not yet on line] of Kucinich's December 7 appearance before a group of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID).

In his presentation in New York's Lesbian and Gay Communtiy Center, Kucinich focused on only three subjects, same-sex marriage, healthcare and the war in Iraq, but both his choice of issues and the positions he outlined for himself were far bolder than what we have come to expect from any candidate for national office.

He declared unequivocal support for equal same-sex marriage rights, and is the only candidate to do so. He told Schindler: "The idea of being fearful of this issue, running away from it because you think George Bush is going to use it as a wedge issue - the pursuit of the White House should not for the faint of heart."

He distinguished his own position on health care from each of the other "leading" candidates by saying that while they favor incremental change to the existing chaos [my noun] he favors Canadian-style, single-payer universal coverage. Kucinich told the GLID assembly, "Insurance companies do not make money providing health care, they make money not providing health care. Most people ask, my God, how are you going to pay for that? Well you know what - we're already paying for it."

Speaking to Gay City News after his speech, Kucinich said he is the only candidate with "a plan to end the occupation of Iraq. . . . It's one thing to say you were against the war. But you know if it was wrong to go in, it is wrong to stay in." The Ohio Congressman pointed to his website, which the article reports, "details a plan for bringing U.S. troops home within 90 days of winning a United Nations resolution for sharing the burden of restabilizing Iraq."

For more on his platform, including detail on these and some 60-odd other issues, see his website.

I don't think a progressive could even invent this guy. He seems too good to be true, and, in doing a pretty good job of ignoring him, the nation's going to see to it that it never will be true.

[Photo by Eric Rife]

Lysistrata Defending The Acropolis

We have no "security" and we won't be "secured".

Last week we found out that the great and generous non-profit gallery space, White Box, is planning an important "political" show concurrent with the Republican National Convention to be imposed on New York late this summer.

Our first reaction was, yeah, Juan, like all the bold shows you assemble which aren't political! Then I thought about just how specific and how useful the theme could be this time, because of the timing of course, but also the place! White Box is only about six blocks away from Madison Square Garden, which will be the scene of fascist rallies from August 30 until September 2, and it and many of the other Chelsea galleries are likely to be in a security lock-down zone.

A formal call will go out early in the year for proposals and submissions from artists. [I'll post the details here when I get them] The challenge should be as irresistable for artists as anticipating the sudden descent into Manhattan of antediluvian lowlife obscurants is for activists generally.

For the honor of New York, if not that of the entire human species, I hope both the performing and visual art worlds really work the theme this summer, but I'm thinking especially of hot "destination" galleries all over the city. What I'd really like to see is Republican delegates' wives go gallery hopping during slow afternoons and then head straight back to their hotels to lock their blackguard husbands out - or report them as the terrorists they are.

[Aubrey Beardsley image from House of Pain]

[our own helicopter makes no noise - oh, and it carries no bombs]

Late one night early last week I posted a brief mention that the next day I would be going to a meeting about New York's helicopter pestilence, so I owe this space at least some kind of report.

Helicopters love New York, even if New Yorkers don't love helicopters.

On December 9 I said that my concern was "our neighborhood's regular assault by low-flying and low-hovering helicopters." I had been invited by my very-excellent-indeed City Council member Chris Quinn to join her legislative aide Danielle DeCerbo at what I discovered was a regular meeting of what was called the "Manhattan Helicopter Task Force." I was surprised, and I suppose disappointed, to find that the group was not a recent creation, but was rather a bit long in the tooth. I was not surprised however to find that the problem was not limited to Chelsea, but that it plagued the entire borough and likely the whole city.

Does any of this mean that we can expect to get relief?

My short answer is no, and I should drop the discussion there. I think the situation is absolutely hopeless, although my pessimism may not be shared by everyone working on the problem. There were 30 people around a table in the office of the Manhattan Borough President, even if only some of them could be described as complainants. The rest were from offices of elected officials or were people who work in and for helicopter aviation. I believe I was the only just-plain-old-citizen present.

The longer answer to the question of relief would describe the obstacles I believe are insurmountable in today's political and economic world. Those obstacles include the facts that New York has an unworkable noise code, that New York City long ago decided on its own that anything to do with any aircraft over its territory was entirely a federal responsibility, that ordinary tour companies are still permitted to contract for Manhattan overflights and will continue to be able to do so even when they can't take off from Manhattan heliports, that there are dozens of commercial "news" company helicopters whose patrol area is New York, that corporate demand for the prestige and convenience which helicopters can offer in a city which refuses to deal with its increasingly crippling automobile traffic is growing and is likely to explode, that the police are more and more attracted to sexy helicopter patrols, that any helicopters or other planes operating below 2000 feet are not in "controlled airspace" [that regulated by FAA traffic controllers at area airports] and are therefore free to use their own judgment in deciding what flying height, even down to rooftop or ground level, is safe or appropriate, that only Congress can regulate altitude rules in New York City or anywhere else, and finally and most devastating, that at any one time there are between 40 and 50 helicopters in the immediate New York area whose dedicated role is "security," making them unanswerable to any reponsible party. Those "security" craft are incidently totally unidentifiable and cannot be traced by anyone, or by any agency which is not the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

The moderator of the meeting, Rick Muller, Environmental/Transportation Policy Analyst in C. Virginia Fields's office, may only have been reflecting the sentiments of most Americans when he commented sadly, in the context of statements suggesting that security trumps all, "Post 9/11 it's a diffferent world." But what he is really describing is the death of representative government, since agencies not responsible to either the electing or the elected can initiate or veto every action the nation takes, at any level of government and regardless of scale. In the end we will be neither free nor secure. It is up to a free people to decide how much and what kind of security it will contract for; the final decision cannot be left to the salesman, even if he's wearing a uniform.

If 40 or 50 helicopters is what gives us security, an insurgency in Iraq should not be possible today.

FOOTNOTE: Since September 11 there is one U.S. city not burdened in the least by low-flying aircraft, other than those assigned to "security," and that city is Washington, D.C. "Washington is [now always, totally] shut down," announced the FAA representative at the meeting in the Municipal Building on Tuesday. He added that New York airspace is also totally shut down whenever the President is here.

[the helicopter was found at Wallspace, in "The Holiday Shopping Show II," where there are more, as well as many other wonderful inexpensive artist works: Koji Shimizu, Fluffy Green 2003, satin with polyester stuffing, ed. 7/10]


Zowie! It's 12:30 already! Gotta get to bed early, since tomorrow morning at dawn [10 am in C. Virginia Fields's office downtown] I have to talk about our neighborhood's regular assault by low-flying and low-hovering helicopters.

Is it Donald Trump, network news, traffic reports for the burgs and the burbs, or spyships?

More about it here tomorrow, especially if the meeting turns out either productive or disastrous.

[image from windycreek.com]

the first ACT UP demonstration, March 24, 1987

"Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP", the documentary by James Wentzy which first shown last November in New York at MIX 2002 and at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, will be screened this Monday at Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village.

Over a year ago I wrote that Wentzy was [South] Dakota's [more ethical] answer to Leni Riefenstahl, adding later, in November 2002:

The ACT UP documentary was beautiful, but for all the evidence of the success of the activism it records, the reminders of how little has changed in the world in fifteen years is a horrible concomitance. Bush, war in the middle east, health care, drug company profiteering, oil, greed and stupidity. There were also the images of so many activists whose lives were destroyed at the height of their beauty and their powers. I would not have missed this screening for anything, but it was a melancholy, if not terrifying, experience, and one which an intelligent and generous world could have prevented.
Oh, just go next Monday. The time is right. Even Berlin thought it was important, the NYTimes still thinks ACT UP-style and substance is important, as is suggested by Jesse Green's Sunday magazine piece yesterday, the Ford Foundation is now throwing big money into a very important ACT UP oral history project, and a viewing now should be a good spark for the activism we all should be planning for a face-off with the Republican convention in New York next summer. It's important.

All ticket sales benefit ACT UP/New York.


Monday, December 15th, at 7 pm
Two Boots Pioneer Theater
155 East 3rd Street at Ave. A

[image from ACT UP/New York's "Actions" file, where you can view other documentation]

Hieronymus Bosch, Ship of Fools

I still think I was right. There is nothing more damning than the facts, but the NYTimes editorial department must have had fun with this one, and their product shows it.

I wouldn't want anyone to miss its bravura, so here it is in its entirety.

Bobbing Aloof From the Apple

New York's landlubbers find it more ludicrous than insulting that Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, may offer to house hundreds of solons, fat-cat donors and lobbyists in a luxury cruise ship off the Manhattan shore during next summer's Republican National Convention. If he prevails over growing G.O.P. embarrassment at such a floating symbol of gated plutocracy, we urge Mr. DeLay to forgo any "Master and Commander" regalia he may have in mind. Instead, the flinty Texan should borrow Nathan Detroit's double-breasted pinstripes to come ashore from the newest established permanent floating avoidance game in New York.

At the rate he is going, Mr. DeLay will steal the show from President Bush — in ways the Republicans may regret. His plan to have a children's charity help underwrite the expenses for convention galas and provide a tax-free spot for major donors to deposit their cash is controversial enough. But having some of the G.O.P.'s best and richest walk a gangplank to and from the city each day has just the hint of xenophobia that already finds Democrats dancing in the streets. The Republicans made much of their decision to hold the convention in Democrat-heavy New York, in no small part as a gesture toward the city's perseverance after 9/11. Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the custom for the city's hotels, restaurants and nightspots. But Mr. DeLay's former chief of staff has been lobbying for the mass embarkation to the Norwegian Dawn, a 15-deck, 14-bar, 10-restaurant ship offering ultrapriced rooms and what Mr. DeLay's office deems "good security" for up to 2,200 passengers.

What is the normally bold Texan afraid of? The ghosts of squeegee beggars? Pedestrian Democrats? There are scores of thousands of fine hotel rooms available for a closer sense of the city. We urge Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to show some hometown clout in demanding that conventioneers be firmly housed. True, both parties can't help reaching for touches of skybox Babbittry for their conventions. But going offshore is going too far in New York.

[image via Brad McCormick]

Here it is, "World AIDS Day" and all I can think of posting here is a story about health insurance. Well, unfortunately every day is a day with AIDS in this world, thanks to criminal disregard which began almost 25 years ago and which continues, little abated, today.

And, if posting this bit of information can help even a handful of people, it will have proved to be something other than just another AIDS day.

Barry has the information on his own site about a new ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) plan which offers to pay for health insurance for New Yorkers (the whole state) who are HIV+ and something less than rich.

It's a win-win deal.

Spread the word.

[thanks, Karen!]

Raymone J. Pettine, federal judge in Rhode Island from 1966 until 1996, died on November 17.

The NYTimes obituary in today's editions cites his landmark rulings from the bench supporting humane prison conditions, civil liberties for individuals, equal rights for women and girls, the separation of church and state, free speech and abortion rights.

At least one of his judgments attracted attention all across the country:

In 1980, he ruled that a gay student had the right to take a male escort to the prom. The student had filed suit after the principal denied his request for the date.

"To rule otherwise would completely subvert free speech by granting other students a `heckler's veto,' " Judge Pettine wrote. "The First Amendment does not tolerate mob rule by unruly schoolchildren."

On this and other issues the jurist was an independent mind, independent above all of his own church.
"He truly was one of the most devout Catholics I have known," said his daughter, Lydia Gillespie. "But he was able to separate his beliefs from the dictates of the Constitution."
Judge Raymond J. Pettine (it was always the full name) was a very big man produced by a very small state. Throughout most of the twenty years I lived in the wonderland called "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" blessed with this good man, his name was regularly broadcast throughout the entire region. To this day, even after almost another two decades away from what were my own Newport and Providence plantings, if I think of the Providence Journal-Bulletin or WPRO the letters or the sound of "Raymond J. Pettine" somehow crowd or shout anything else which might be stored in my memory.

In the early days, his was a voice crying out in the wilderness, just about the only voice. Today Rhode Island is another place, largely because of this man and those he inspired.

One of his colleagues remembers a great jurist with this surprising encomium:

"He was one of the great romantic [my italics] judges," said Burt Neuborne, a New York University law professor who as an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer brought a series of cases before Judge Pettine in the early 1970's.

Mr. Neuborne added that Judge Pettine was among the judges who had a "grand conception" of "what the possibilities of American justice were and what their role was in helping achieve individual liberty and equality."

Pettine was born on America Street on Federal Hill, Providence's "little Italy" in 1912, and it's still a healthy Italian neighborhood today. As judge for the federal district, he lived in a comfortable old yankee mansion on Angell Street, very much the other side of town. Now that's romantic.

Here is more on Pettine's take on religion and the state, this from the Providence Journal November 18 notice:

In 1993, looking back on his years on the bench, Pettine said: "In all God's truth I must say, it is an awesome privilege to be a judge."

But it was a privilege that exacted a price. When Pettine, a practicing Roman Catholic, ruled against the Nativity scene, The Providence Journal-Bulletin printed a full page of letters, overwhelmingly opposing the decision.

"I could never understand why so many Catholic people held the Nativity case against me. And they really did, believe me when I tell you; I got some very, very vicious correspondence. Vicious correspondence."

Feelings grew so tense that Pettine stopped attending his church, St. Sebastian, and went to Mass at the Franciscan chapel on Weybosset Street.

On a personal level, Pettine said he didn't see how a Catholic could support the Nativity display in the first place. "You know, the birth of Christ is something that stands alone, and they just trivialized this in the way they wanted to display it.

"Then, as far as the law is concerned," he said, "I firmly believe this with great conviction: that there has to be a separation between church and state -- that one of the saving graces of this country is the fact that we are tolerant of all religions, and even of those who have no religion [my italics]. And if we start breaking that down, we are going to be in an awful lot of trouble."

Judge Raymond J. Pettine was a liberal, a breed which, if not quite extinct, lives pretty closeted in the new America.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from December 2003.

previous archive: Politics: November 2003

next archivePolitics: January 2004