Politics: April 2004 Archives


Let us suppose you have a chest of drawers that you sorely need for storage space but cannot fit into your small apartment. What to do?

Here is one thought: Why not put it on wheels and leave it curbside in front of your building? Naturally, you accept a theft risk and an obligation to move the chest across the street every few days to comply with alternate-side parking rules.

Absurd, right? You can't just leave personal property on the street.

But what if we call that thing on wheels, oh, a car? Suddenly, it becomes O.K. to gobble up precious public space for your own benefit. Not only that, but on most streets you also need not pay a dime for this storage area.

So begins Clyde Haberman's "NYC" column in today's NYTimes.

While eventually we will be forced to ban on-street parking in New York, presumably starting only with Manhattan at first, it's not going to be easy, not least because of the sense of entitlement fostered for car owners by every city administration for over half a century.

Before 1950 it was illegal to park overnight in Manhattan. Transportation Alternatives activist John Tierney has cited how old photographs demonstrate "gracefully uncluttered streets. Many of the sidewalks were much wider than today's and adorned with greenery."

The city's pedestrian majority, as Police Commissioner Arthur Wallander approvingly observed in 1947, was firmly opposed to ''the public streets being used as garages.'' But the city's politicians had their own cars to park and favors to hand out. So some of the world's most expensive real estate has ended up being used to store hulks of metal, at unbeatable prices.
But of course he's not been alone in encouraging New Yorkers to take back the streets. Two and a half years ago Frank Pelligrini proposed in Time that incoming mayor Bloomberg be so bold as to make his mark by doing the right thing by all New Yorkers.
Banning parking would rev all the economic engines that the city runs on, and eliminate the real source of economic dead weight, namely private-vehicle owners who are just waiting for an excuse to get out of town for the weekend anyway

[image from unrev.com]

the keys to the city?

Ah, now I understand why former Mayor Ed Koch appears to be pimping for this Summer's Republican Convention. Koch has accepted a job as chairman of a drive to attract thousands of volunteers to help with the event, but a NYTimes story which appeared April 28 seems to offer redemption for the old man.

It is accepted as an article of faith among protesters planning to demonstrate against the Republican National Convention this summer that agents seeking to undermine their efforts have infiltrated their ranks. But now the protesters are talking about infiltrating the convention to undermine the event itself.

"Really?" said Kevin Sheekey, president of the New York City Host Committee, when told that protesters were talking about flooding the ranks of volunteers to disrupt convention operations.

The city is obligated to find a total of 8,000 New Yorkers to volunteer to help things run smoothly, and would-be protesters are hoping that by signing up, they can work from the inside during the convention, scheduled Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

"A lot of people are talking about it in general," said William Etundi Jr., a founder of counterconvention.org, a Web site that serves as a bulletin board for anti-convention activities. "The Republicans are coming to New York City, so maybe the real New York should come to them."

Koch has enraged progressives for years, but the closeted, way-erstwhile Democratic community activist could hardly have expected to abandon absolutely everything he ever represented* in order to beat the drum for a Republican candidate who has never disavowed his personal support while governor for the Texas law which mandates imprisonment for homosexuals. Or could he?

Yes he could. If you see him around town, tell him exactly how he's doing, even though he's no longer asking us the question. Oh, and while you have his attention, don't forget to ask him what he did about AIDS during his watch.

Of course we know that Koch is not actually in the loop for the horse project, so what's really going on? How did we get to the point where a political party's supreme campaign stunt can be represented as "non-political," in the former mayor's own words. On Sunday, the Times's Michael Slackman wrote that current mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a former Democrat, is trying to persuade New Yorkers that the convention is not political because it is happening in their city. Even Koch admits that it's "one of the most political events of the nation."

Political, indeed, said William K. Dobbs, spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, a group that hopes to have hundreds of thousands of protestors focusing on the convention in a very partisan way. "If the R.N.C. is non-partisan, I'm Greta Garbo," said Mr. Dobbs. "A political party's convention by its nature is partisan. This is loony."


From an interview which appeared in POZ last December, where Michael Musto and Tony Kushner are discussing the film version of "Angels In America":

Musto: One thing that is missing is the line outing former New York City mayor Ed Koch, an arch-enemy of AIDS activists, as gay.

Kushner: I don’t know if that was gone in the screenplay or taken out in editing. Maybe the [filmmakers] figured no one knows who Ed is anymore, which would be a lovely thing to believe. Oblivion is what Ed deserves. When the play was on Broadway, a New York name lawyer who’s a friend of Koch’s asked me if I’d please take the line out because it was really hurting Ed’s feelings. I left it in. It was mean to do, but I really hated him. He’s such a ghastly man and such a betrayer of the progressive vision he rose to prominence on. He became such a reactionary blimp.

[Tiepolo, The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy (1773) oil on canvas, 39 x 67 cm, National Gallery, London, the image from The Web Gallery of Art]

this is as sophisticated as it gets

Ray Sanchez knows what the city won't tell us: No one is really doing anything about subway security. But then, why should we be surprised? The subway isn't the politicians and bureaucrats' thing. They don't use it.

At the same time it hasn't escaped the notice of some of us that there's still talk about entirely shutting down Penn Station and the Main Post Office during the Republican Convention for the safety of hundreds or thousands of treasured Republican plutocrats.

The conductor stood in the cab of the subway car, her door ajar. People have a false sense of security on the subway, she said. "The politicians who never ride the trains are very reassuring, aren't they?"

The New York Police Department is rushing to train 10,000 officers in counter-terrorism in time for the summer's Republican National Convention, but there are transit workers without fire and evacuation training.

"I'm one of them," said the conductor, who has eight years on the job. "You hope common sense is enough to get you through an emergency, but, you know, common sense goes out the window."

And, in the event, the riders too, if there's going to be no direction from "security."

[image from Rachelle Bowden at rachelleb]

it's a slippery slope

But it's 2004! Why do we still have to deal with this accursed thing? I've absolutely had it with the abominations of the Catholic Church, and don't get me started on all the other monstrously evil cults which compete with it in advancing fear and superstition in this benighted land and around the world.

Bloggy discovered last night that my home state of Michigan is about to institutionalize unreason, bigotry and hate.

Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

If these idiots want religious war, I think we should let them have it. I'm in.

I know the Catholic Church like few others do. My family has practiced its magic for almost two thousand years and most of them continue to do so. I was educated in a Catholic elementary school staffed entirely by nuns, an Augustinian Prep School manned by black-robed priests and brothers, and a Jesuit not-so-liberal-arts university.

In that time I learned just about everything they wanted me to learn about "The Church," and I never questioned the system, but within a few weeks of my arrival at the University of Wisconsin Madison the entire structure of intellectual restraints collapsed and I learned how to breathe freely for the first time.

Years later I find even more darkness all around me, and I am its enemy.

In spite of cries of alarm coming from those who carry its torches, religion is not persecuted in this country. Reason is persecuted in this country. Religion is winning.

[image from a French Charles Taze Russell site, where it is captioned, "Fratricide — Autodafé à Paris"]

The Patriot Act is obviously a boon for homegrown tyrants. Only slightly less obvious is the fact that it won't be able to protect us from their bogeymen, even though that's the only excuse they can publicly offer for its existence.

Bloggy draws the properly scary conclusion from today's headlines.

(storyboard image for filing cabinet scene not included in the film)

I saw Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" in a movie theatre when it first came out, almost twenty years ago. I remember thinking it was exciting and pretty funny. B and I saw it again tonight at home. This time I thought it was terrifying. In 2004 it's no longer "retro future."

Another big surprise: Jonathan Pryce is really cute as Sam Lowry. I didn't remember that.


[image at the top from Trond Frittz lower image from MovieGoods]

serious street theatre: Rachel Corrie remembered on 5th Avenue, March 26, 2003

Barry and I slipped into Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday to show support for our friends and their friends, sixteen defendents caught up in the trial from mayhem (maybe the word "hell" should be reserved for even more horrendous judicial outrages likely still to come).

Thirteen months ago the group had been arrested for a totally peaceful street protest against the war in Iraq, against the continuing war on the Palestinians, and against the death of U.S. human rights activist Rachel Corrie. Ok, some traffic was disrupted on 5th Avenue. Now those arrested that day may be subject to restraint of their liberties during years of probation and, in the words of hanging judge Robert M. Stolz on Monday, they are "facing a possible sentence of up to a year in jail." A year in jail? For blocking cars? For trying to shake their country awake?

Stolz's mention of the serious stakes involved for the defendents followed immediately a thinly-veiled warning to their friends and familiy in the benches: "[This trial] is not for the benefit of Spectators." No, it certainly isn't, but can we know for whose benefit it is being staged?

This trial is an appalling abuse of the courts. We used to think that Giuliani's regime* was outrageous, but to experience an even more serious assault New Yorkers really had to wait until after the reactionary ascendancy which followed the 2000 election, after the misreading of September 11, after the terrorists won the war on terror the day it was announced, and after the totally political decision that New York City would be the site of the Republican Convention celebrating the arrival of the fundamentalists' brave new world.

Normally political protest which involves a police determination that the protestor
is somehow out of order results in a simple violation and the dismissal of all charges, assuming the person arrested does not run into the police again within a designated relatively short period of time, usually a few months.

I can't begin to go into the particulars here of how this judge and this district attorney (Morgenthau's lieutenant, Barry Glasser) have been mishandling the case of the "5th Avenue 16," but let me say that neither party is disinterested, and that the people's justice appears to be just about the last concern of both. Not incidently, aside from carrying an axe which will apparently never be ground enough, Judge Stolz has to be faulted for incredibly slovenly, unprofessional conduct. But then, these are also times which somehow accomodate a George W. Bush presiding over 300 million [or actually 6 billion] of his fellows.

Yesterday morning, for what was expected to be only the pronouncement of sentences, there were at all times a minimum of eight police officers in the courtroom on Monday (one for every ten people in the public seating area) and four of them wore bulletproof vests. I have been a defendent in civil rights cases, I have sat in courtrooms while others were tried for similar "offenses" and I have sat on the jury in one capital case. Never before have I have seen more than two officers in a courtroom, and none were ever wearing vests.

Clearly the City authorities and their directors in Washington are trying very hard to frighten us all into submission and to minimize the potential for the demonstrations and protest which are the only refuge for a people given no effective electoral choices. We can't let our self-appointed governors get away with this. The stakes are just too high. If we fail to stop these police state tactics now, we all will be paying for it for years, if not forever.

Clyde Haberman has written one of the very few media stories on this trial. He doesn't tell us enough, he provides no real context, and he may be trying to be too entertaining, but you'll at least learn that sentencing has been delayed contemplating the impact of new evidence. True justice's hope is that the defendents' lawyer will be successful in his motion for an appeal, but with this judge it must be a distant hope at best.

For more press and other information, including pictures, go to M26.org

Surprise! A former federal prosecutor, Stolz was originally appointed Judge by Giuliani, to the Civil Court in 1995. He was appointed to the Criminal Court by Bloomberg in 2003.

[image from Fred Askew]




By 6:30 this evening, on the last day for mailing income tax returns, the steps of the Main Post Office on 8th Avenue were getting pretty lively. In addition to an ungoodly [sic] number of police, there were at least three distinct groups demonstrating, including Billionaires For Bush, the Missile Dick Chicks, and Marriage Equality New York.

Even if it's not really surprising these days, it's still depressing for a queer with a sense of history and occasion to have to report that the last group was the least entertaining, and certainly the least theatrical of the bunch. It's true that there are certainly more important criteria for judging the merits of a cause, but what's become of our creative standards? Don't we owe something to the rich imaginations of the millions of unmarrieds who have gone before us?

the same Keith Cylar who won the respect of civic officials for his tireless work with Housing Works clients was arrested more than 50 times for civil disobedience: here he is shown visiting the U.S. Senate chambers*

WBAI's site now has posted part of an absolutely amazing interview which Ben Shepard made with Keith Cylar a little over two years ago.

Keith describes his first experience with AIDS, beginning in the early 80's, and what his world was like at the time.

At that point I was having sex wherever. It was really schizophenic; there was the fear of contagion, but the unforgiving presence of hormones and the need to have sex. I don't regret it. I actually wish that I had more sex than I had back then but I was a prude. I was a nerd. I cried a lot back then because of how lonely I was. It was a very alienated world which didn't necessarily know how to deal with a strong, black, intelligent, jock male who is also a faggot who loves men and loves kinky sex.
Later in the interview Ben asks Keith about ACT UP's Housing Committee, founded in the late 80's, which was the forerunner of Housing Works.
BS: What about this Housing Committee? When did housing become an AIDS issue? When did Housing and AIDS become linked? Its not part of everybody's consciousness?

KC: Let me tell you what was happening. There was a gridlock in the hospital system. Charlie King, Ginny Shubert, Eric Sawyer started recognizing the issue in '88, '87. For me working in the hospital, I couldn't get people out of the hospital because they didn't have a place to live. We'd get 'em well from whatever brought them in; they wouldn't have a place to live. They'd stay in the hospitals and they'd pick up another thing and then they'd die. Remember, 88, 90, 91, 92--New York City literally had hospital gridlock and that was when they were keeping people out on hospital gurneys in the hallways. That was when people were not being fed, bathed or touched. It was horrendous. You can't imagine what it was like to be black, gay, a drug user, transgender, and dying from AIDS.

So housing all of a sudden became this issue. ACT UP recognized it and formed this Housing Committee. I got involved in the Housing Committee when they came to the Majority Action Committee to do a presentation, asking us to help them get money from the floor to go to the First National African American Conference on AIDS. It was going to be in Washington [D.C.]. There was this guy there, Charles King, I sort of ripped into Charles King. We started working together.

The strategy was to push, push, push. It wasn't different than the general ACT UP strategy about inclusion. But it was always to get those populations also included.

It was easy for the world to deal with gay white men. People of color were so far off the Richter scale, and it was also to hold people of color organizations accountable.

If it was the worst of times, people like Keith made it also some of the best of times.
A lot of this stuff for me became very emotional but I have not focused on it because I plan to do this work for a long time and I have learned. This is the problem that happened with ACT UP. You cannot last forever on anger. You cannot last forever on the negative side of emotions. And you really have to learn how to love. And you have to go to much more positive spaces ultimately if you are going to do this for a long time.

And part of what happened with ACT UP was its evolution had to do not only with this intense creative thing and very brilliant people who created and populated and ran organizations. They were so competitive and so angry and bitter at the outside world and they needed [to] be because we were literally fighting for our lives. But inside we needed to learn how to love. We needed to learn how to care for each other. We needed to learn that I wasn‚t necessarily your enemy.

BS: There was also the recognition that doing AIDS work meant doing race, class, and gender work.

KC: That came for people of color. We were trying to do that and they were doing "Drugs into Bodies." So there was always this contention. When ACT UP worked well and there was a real consensus process and you could talk about stuff and you could talk it through, you could work together. And that was when it worked well. The fights that happened out of that lead to people splintering. You cannot build a community in hate, you cannot build a community on anger. You cannot build a community on death and dying. The overwhelming thing about the AIDS epidemic is they died.

We haven't heard the end of Keith's story, especially since his work survives as a very succcessful multi-million dollar service organization which has not compromised its activism or its principles. It's established itself as a very visible and indispensible institution in communities virtually ignored otherwise, if not positively despised.

From almost the beginning, Housing Works has even managed to be considered very chic at the same time as it was saving lives. This was an association which was undoubtedly enormously important both for its fundraising and for the additional self-respect such a cachet was able to encourage among its clients, employees, volunteers and defenders at the barricades.

Remarkably, these were all roles which might be shared even at the same moment by the people associated with Housing Works. Attracting this kind of commitment was another reflection of the large souls both of Charles King and of the good companion we have just lost.

[the image at the top was provided by Terri Smith-Caronia at Housing Works]


[I neglected to mention yesterday that the interview posted on the WBAI site is credited there: An excerpt from the book From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest And Community-Building in the Era of Globalization Edited by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk]

The April 8 NYTimes includes an obituary: "Keith Cylar, 45; Found Homes for AIDS Patients"

Keith Cylar headshot.JPG

A beautiful man died yesterday.

Keith Cylar was the Co-Founder and Co-President of Housing Works, whose good people announced his death today. Keith had lived with HIV for over 20-years and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989. In the last year, Keith developed cardiomyopathy, a serious enlargement of the heart. He died in his sleep early Monday morning of a cardioarythmia.

Fellow troublemaker and troublesolver Eric Sawyer reminds us of how much we have lost.

I remember when Charles King first brought Keith Cylar to a meeting of the Housing Committee. Keith had aready been coming to ACT UP - was working for the Minority AIDS Task Force in Harlem and was involved with the Minority (soon to become Majority) AIDS Action Committee.

Keith was this strong, tough as nails, sweet as sugar, fearless scared man child, angry at the loss of his former lover, fierce with rage against the do nothings in power; a handsome, sexy, powerful man - wise beyond his years - determined to help right the wrongs the world was doing to PWAs, to the poor, to the homeless, to the voiceless and to disenfranchised.

Keith was an out, proud, queer, black, positive brother when it was definitely not cool to be so in his community - a leader amongst men and a hero amongst warriors - Keith was my friend and I love him so.

Keith was able to kick back with a homeless person on a street corner, dance with a member of the Congress, break bread with a former Mayor, sip wine with a Cabinet Member and debate a member of the First Family with equal ease. He could also hold the hand of the dying and help them make peace with the Universe.

The world has a huge whole in it's soul now that Keith has left this plain.

[Keith Cylar and Charles King shared in the founding and administration of Housing Works, as partners in life and in activism]


I looked everywhere last night for at least one great picture to include at the top of this post, but with no luck. I think it says a great deal about both Keith and Charles that they seem almost invisible; the work is big, the egos are not.

[April 10: I now have two images, thanks to Terri Smith-Caronia at Housing Works, one sitting at the top of this post and the second at the top of the the April 7 followup]

The Bushites and their handlers: Although somehow they hijacked command of the most powerful country on earth, they clearly don't know what they're doing and they're doing it for the wrong reasons.

I used to think that their stupidity is what would save the planet, but that was before the "war on terror," the war on Afghanistan, the war on Iraq and now the wars which will be visited upon the entire world in response to their stupidity and iniquity.


It may finally have come down to our millennialists against their millennialists.

Over the weekend a new war may have begun began in earnest in Iraq, a very visible, coordinated, religion-based uprising against the occupation. The Christian soldiers running the U.S. and Iraq these days are driven by visions of the second coming of Jesus. The Iraqi streets and basements are propelled by the appearance of the Mahdi. Unfortunately the two armies are talking about roughly the same thing - the end of the world - but they aren't going to make it easy for anyone.

The Mahdi Army is the name given to the militia responsible for the current outbreaks of violence. People who study British, african, middle-east and asian history know the enormous significance the name Mahdi assumed at the end of the 19th century when it was both bogeyman and a real terrorist threat for the last bible-thumping, English-speaking empire. At least the reportedly quite observant Blair should remember Gordon and Kitchener, especially this week.

[image originally from Wired]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from April 2004.

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