Politics: May 2004 Archives


This is one of a group of works by Brian Belott [who shows at Canada] lining the gallery's entrance ramp of the White Box show, "Majority Whip," which closed yesterday. Closed, but not to be forgotten, since we can expect to see its children throughout this New York summer, and far beyond.

On Wednesday night, a clutch of Billionaires for Bush managed to crash an enthusiastic gathering of somewhat less-monied and decidedly un-Bush artists and activists in the gallery:


Is the NYTimes about to admit it's largely responsible for sending the country into an immoral and disastrous war?

See this story which arrived via Cursor tonight.

Sources inside and close to the New York Times say that the newspaper is preparing an "Editors' Note" that will reassess its pre-Iraq War coverage, particularly its coverage of weapons of mass destruction. The note is said to address the reporting failures of Times staffers, including Judith Miller, and could be published as early as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 26).
So how will they propose to make the world whole now? As Barry pointed out, and with no little acerbity, remembering the last Times "Editors' Note," this ain't just another Jayson Blair!

Will the Washington Post be next? See this Washingtonian article, also sighted on Cursor.

Chalabi has been a political activist in exile for most of his 59 years, and for many of those years the Post has trumpeted and championed his causes. In some ways, Chalabi is a creation of the Post and to a lesser extent the Times, where Judith Miller relied on him as a source in reporting on weapons of mass destruction.
Ah, those sneaky notoriously-Leftwing, Eastern-Establishment media giants have been at it again, pushing their pinko internationalist agenda onto peace-loving Americans across the land, through the halls of the Capitol and into the White House itself.

UPDATE: The "Editors' Note" now [11:30 pm Tuesday] appears on the Times site and will appear in all editions on Wednesday. It doesn't begin to describe the scale of the newspaper's failures, and while it barely touches the subject of moral guilt the geopolitical consequences of those failures is missing altogether.


[Barry spotted this image of Jake Gyllenhaal, which is courtesy of the ACLU and arrives via uffish and black sheep]

UPDATE: See below for the announcement that the sentencing has been stayed.


"Can they imprison us for political protest?" We're about to find out, right here in Gotham.

Yesterday New York City closed down 5th Avenue for the benefit of a group of people wishing to demonstrate American support for Israel. On Wednesday the same city will be sentencing, quite possibly to prison terms, another group of people who briefly closed down the same Avenue last year. Their wish? They hoped to demonstrate oppositon to what America is doing in the Middle East, including its support for the Israeli government's murderous policy.

Four defendants have already been convicted of "blocking traffic," but they will hear their sentences read Wednesday morning. The prosecution team is calling for jail time, based on several protest cases previously dismissed and sealed by the courts. All current charges, as well as the past charges which were supposed to have remained hidden, involve non-violent protest. The District Attorney has cited the four advocates' history of advocacy with AIDS/Queer/Abortion/Police Brutality activism as reason for harsh sentencing, thus officially criminalizing political protest.

It has been decades since New York courts have even tried to argue that such defendants should serve time. If the move is successful this week, the long-term implications for political dissent will be horrendous. But the short-term consequences are surely the agenda of this district attorney, this police commissioner, this born-again-Republican mayor and the administration in Washington he hopes to impress. This is an election year, we are in the midst of a costly and increasingly unpopular war, and we are just now entering an anxious, hot summer which will climax in a massive political rally conducted by a failed, deceptive, radical regime which was imposed upon a world it has horribly wounded. The stakes are very, very high.

Our support of a better way, a better world, is needed this week. Our presence inside and outside of the courtroom will help these four courageous activists and of course it will help us all, including countless people who will never hear about their sacrifice or our modest witness. Please come to the Manhattan Criminal Court Building just east and a few blocks north of City Hall on Wednesday morning, May 26, at 9 am for the 9:30 am sentencing. The address is 100 Centre Street, Room 533.

For photographs and more information, including that on the fate of the 12 defendents sentenced earlier, see the M26 site.

UPDATE (Monday, May 24, 6:35 pm)


Late today it was announced that the sentencing, originally scheduled for May 26, has been stayed, pending an appeal for review of a petition by the four against Supreme Court Justice Cataldo and the District Attorney of Manhattan (on the issue of the unsealing of dismissed cases). This means that they will appear again in court at a date in July at the earliest.

Do not show up this Wednesday; there will be nothing happening there on this case at that time.

Friends of the convicted activists are asking instead for help in finding lawyers who would want to file a brief on this case. The case is expected to be very important in establishing both political and legal precedent for all kinds of defendants.

Those who know lawyers who might be interested in this important case are asked to contact Jonathan Kirshbaum at [phone number deleted].

Even those who are not close to lawyers can help with the legal fees and fines associated with the case. Contributions of all sizes can be made through paypal on the M26 site.

[image, of the March 26 protest, by Fred Askew on the M26 site]


Some day this entire wretched adventure may be known as the "War of Chalabi's Chutzpah," rivalling the stupidity of another disastrous imperial obscenity which began with a fake casus belli, the "War of Jenkin's Ear."

Newsday seems to have something of a scoop today [has anybody heard from the NYTimes these days, except to hear it mouth Washington's pieties?], reporting that our own Defense Intelligence Agency has decided that Chalabi, the man the Administration had expected to install as Sadaam Hussein's successor, had duped his Pentagon paymasters in order to get the U.S. to attack and occupy Iraq.

But the report gets still more incredible. Chalabi was working in the interests of Iran all along, meaning that Bush has been working hard for a prominent member of the "Axis of Evil." Could the theocrats in that unfortunate land be any more grateful to the Republican Party? Remember Iran-Contra as this latest treason unfolds.

WASHINGTON - The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."

The Defense Department this week halted payment of $340,000 a month to Chalabi's program. Chalabi had long been the favorite of the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Intelligence sources say Chalabi himself has passed on sensitive U.S. intelligence to the Iranians.

Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to," he said.

'Sophisticated' operation

He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."

"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.

I can appreciate good work too. Those of us who oppose this Administartion with every fiber of our being could hardly have imagined that such a damning scenario might unfold in the media, triggered and abetted by top civilian and military officials in the U.S. government, some of them certainly Republican. I already knew it would be a very interesting year, but I thought we'd probably have to do all of the work ourselves.

[image by Michael Shaw, from BAGnews]

(not that he's going to notice)

SLACKTAVIST was there first, months ago.

"Reagan's Bind" describes the conundrum in which one is unable to explain or defend one's actions except by ascribing them to either: A) malicious intent; or B) glaring stupidity and/or incompetence.
Today Mark Morford brings us up to date:
It is [also] the eternal Bush conundrum. How to appear sort of blank faced and ignorant of the true atrocities your administration commits so as to avoid any sort of direct accountability, and yet still pretend to be a savvy, aware, tough-guy leader who gets things done and takes no bull and launches unprovoked wars on anything that stands in the way of his dad's portfolio.

After all, it has always been far too easy to smack BushCo around as being an aww-shucks dumb-guy AWOL simpleton daddy's boy with a low-C average and a painfully inarticulate approach to the world, coupled with an astounding, world-famous ability to mangle both the English language and every foreign policy ever implemented.

It's always felt like a bit of a grand ruse, Bush's Forrest Gump-style dunderheadedness, a clever (if entirely plausible) way to deflect much of the responsibility for his regimes's carnage, all designed to make the nation believe that this guy simply couldn't be all that bad because, well, he just ain't all that bright.

But, ironically enough, as far as the Abu Ghraib mega-scandal is concerned, Bush has dug his own hole. It is his very own bull-headed, infantile, stay-the-course, admit-no-mistakes, bomb-first-ask-questions-never approach that has caged him in and makes any move toward getting the U.S. out of the Iraq quagmire nearly impossible. It's not the sign of a dimwit. It's the sign of a dimwit with delusions of shrewdness. Which is, of course, far more dangerous.

. . . .

Maybe Bush is stupid in a way that is far worse, and far more dangerous for the health of this planet, than mere inarticulate, nonintellectual, semiliterate Texas cow-pie bumbling.

It is, in short, the stupidity of the indignant and the self-righteous, of the morally arrogant, of someone whose power base is threatened and yet who is still blindly forcing America down this nightmare path, even when all signs and all leaders and all U.N. councils and all weapons investigators and all flagrant U.S.-sanctioned rapes and tortures are veritably screaming in his face that it is a mistake of increasingly epic, treacherous proportions.

And so maybe, ultimately, it all comes back to us. Maybe it is the majority of people in this flag-wavin', happily deluded, fear-drenched country who can't believe it could happen, who simply, you know, "misunderestimated" just how poisonous Bush's savage brand of stupidity really is.

[image from leafpile]

A woman holds a sign in protest as she listens to testimony by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at a public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States in New York City, May 19, 2004.

Just wish we could forget him.

I'd lay off the guy by now if it weren't for the fact that Rudy Giuliani still appears to be revered around the world as some kind of hero. Jimmy Breslin might also have been able to move on, but it clearly ain't happening yet. Giuliani is a fake, and that may actually be the best that can be said of him.

The day after the 9/11 Commissioners had preposterously annointed him during his appearance before them in New York the veteran Newsday columnist brought his readers back to reality. I'm linking to and copying part of his column here, because almost everyone out in the ether has heard of our former mayor, but fewer get to read Breslin.

He was a nowhere guy until the planes hit the World Trade Center buildings. He was a failed mayor, was Rudy Giuliani. He had a commissioner named Harding stealing so obviously that at first people couldn't believe their eyes.

Giuliani had an open fear of blacks that produced the one most memorable sight of the last 10 years in my city.

On the roof of City Hall were cops with rifles. They were ready to rake this small, straggly column of people marching on one strip of Broadway while they pleaded for housing. Many had AIDS and needed assistance. The real trouble with the demonstrators was that some of them were not white.

On the street, the cops aimed cameras at the cripples. On the roof, they aimed rifles at the marchers.

This was Rudy Giuliani's paranoia caused by this raggedy group of demonstrators begging for a roof over their poor heads. In his time in City Hall, there was a person of color once in awhile. If two appeared, the SWAT team was put on alert.

Giuliani ran a city of aimless departments, of tax assessors shaking people down, of correction officers bullying people in campaigns, of an illness being used for publicity, of so much golf with a lobbyist that they called him the Commissioner of Golf, of so many strutting around and snarling at the helpless and the powerless, using Giuliani's name as a baseball bat. And always, everybody fearing and shunning blacks. Crime had dropped in his first term. It had dropped all over the country, but he made it seem like it was only his doing. "My crime decrease."

He wanted an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum closed because it offended his strict Catholicism. And then, with a wife in Gracie Mansion and one girlfriend in a car outside, a friend of mine, a detective, drove in with another girlfriend, and he and the other girlfriend's car nearly hit each other. He marched with his girlfriend in a parade and his kids could watch it on television.

Giuliani wanted a high security bunker, placed 23 stories high in a building at 7 World Trade Center. Anybody with the least bit of common sense knew that the bunker in the sky was insane and the price, $15.1 million, a scandal. But he said it would house "My Police Commissioner" and "My Fire Commissioner." In Giuliani's world, everything was "mine."

And on the morning of Sept. 11, Rudy Giuliani's bunker went out into the air like a Frisbee.

The first thing he did, he was telling the 9/11 Commission yesterday, was to go out and search for a new command post. He walked away from the trade center and headed for the command post that made his career: the nearest television camera.

. . . .

He went on the television. He was good. What was he supposed to be, bad? He was talking to the world from a city of catastrophe. He went on television five or six times that day. He went on more the next day. And the day after that, and for all the days of the fall of 2001, and the television made him an international hero.

. . . .

And yesterday he sat before the 9/11 commissioners and they collapsed in awe. They listened to him give a walking tour of how he tried to find a command center. Not once did anybody ask him about the stupid idea he had had for his first bunker, the one that fell out of the sky. They asked no questions of a mayor whose fire department had no radios that worked when a police helicopter said the north tower was going to fall. And 343 firefighters died. They wanted to hear nothing of blood on Giuliani's hands. They only wanted to hear whatever he had to say and they regarded his words as those of a hero. They had no idea that the guy was a flop who got lucky with an air raid.

They could at least have asked him a few real questions, and they definitely should have listened to the people who had had to share New York with him before September 11, especially the relatives of World Trade Center victims who sat in the same room with the former mayor on Wednesday. They were not happy.
Several relatives of victims said they were disgusted that the 10 members of the commission, each allowed about five minutes to question Giuliani, wasted time with redundant praise. One statement thanking Giuliani should have been enough, the families said.

"The commission members don't press hard at all," said Beverly Eckert, whose husband was killed.

"We leave frustrated," said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband was killed. "They made a huge faux pas in letting Rudy Giuliani polish his crown."

Targeting Giuliani is a reversal for many of the victims' relatives, who in the years since the attack have generally praised him as a steady leader through the chaos. After leaving office at the end of 2001, Giuliani has consistently sided with family coalitions on issues involving the trade center site, once even calling for the entire 16 acres to become a memorial.

[image and caption from REUTERS/Peter Morgan]

Of course he's not accepting personal responsibility, but he's also not even apologizing for his occupying army, the country (or anything or anyone else); he's merely saying vaguely, he's sorry about it. But wait, read the full context of the word "sorry," which he uses twice in his own report of what he told King Abdullah:

"I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," the Republican president said during a Rose Garden appearance with the Jordanian monarch.

"I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America."

If Bush is "apologizing" for American misdeeds here, he's also "apologizing" for the ignorance of all who aren't Americans. The latter is both an insult and an impossibility, and it makes the first statement meaningless.

He's too stupid too realize it, but he's just effectively shouted out once again, and this time not just to Iraqis, but to everyone in the world who is already unhappy with what our monstrous political, military and economic establishment has come to represent for them, "Bring them on!" We have no defenses for what will follow.

Ashraf Abu-elhaje, shown here in the childrens' theatre of the Jenin refugee camp in 1996, was its most impressive student. At the time he dreamed of a future as the “Palestinian Romeo.” Six years later Ashraf led a large group of fighters in the battle of Jenin. He was killed by a rocket fired from a helicopter.

We went to see "Arna's Children" at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday afternoon. It is the only TFF program we expect to see, so it's clear we had already thought it was important before we knew a great deal about it. We had heard of it through an email sent by the generous Israeli artist, filmmaker and activist Udi Aloni, who had extended an invitation to gather with others for a reception in his studio after the screening.

ARNA'S CHILDREN tells the story of a theatre group that was established by Arna Mer Khamis. Arna comes from a Zionist family and in the 1950s married a Palestinian Arab, Saliba Khamis. On the West Bank, she opened an alternative education system for children whose regular life was disrupted by the Israeli occupation. The theatre group that she started engaged children from Jenin, helping them to express their everyday frustrations, anger, bitterness and fear. Arna's son Juliano, director of this film, was also one of the directors of Jenin's theatre. With his camera, he filmed the children during rehearsal periods from 1989 to 1996. Now, he goes back to see what happened to them. Yussef committed a suicide attack in Hadera in 2001, Ashraf was killed in the battle of Jenin, Alla leads a resistance group. Juliano, who today is one of the leading actors in the region, looks back in time in Jenin, trying to understand the choices made by the children he loved and worked with. Eight years ago, the theatre was closed and life became static and paralysed. Shifting back and forth in time, the film reveals the tragedy and horror of lives trapped by the circumstances of the Israeli occupation.

We stayed in the theatre for the generous Q&A which immediately followed the film. Only when the lights went up did we notice that Jeffrey Wright and Glenn Close were also in the audience. We were impressed with their commitment, whether professional or human, but not more than we were with the fact that the festival director was there. Peter Scarlet is responsible for this very large operation showing a number of films simultaneously in widely-spread venues, but he was there to announce the picture and stayed with the filmmakers throughout the discussion after, eventually participating in it.

Even for people who think of themselves as pretty familiar with the issues and the reality of the subject of this magnificent documentary, the film was shattering, and the emotional experience was only made more distressing by a number of things we heard from the director and producers after. One of the revelations was that of all the little boys who had grown up working with Arna in her theatre group, only one survives today.

We were both made physically sick by the emotions tapped that afternoon, and we agreed together that we were unable to imagine going anywhere at that moment, even to be among people who would understand what we were feeling.

There is almost certainly no reason to think that the insanity and horror being visited upon "the other" in the Middle East will end in our time. Films like this may occasionally awaken hope that, were enough people able to see it, the revelation of the humanity and misery of our victims would be sufficient to make us all intelligent peacemakers. This film could change the world, but, except for the incredibly small number already pretty much aware of what's going on, people will not see it. If we survive our times, "Arna's Children" may some day be seen in the same way we see the evidence of other monstrosities, like "The Diary of Anne Frank" - after the fact, but with great reverence.

I'm very sorry, but I see no reason to be optimistic about the possibility that the people of this country or of its client Israel will regain consciousness and reason in time to avoid even the destruction of their own societies, to say nothing of the mortal damage being done to those of others.

Ok, maybe I'm just depressed today. Ask me how I feel about it tomorrow.

[image from the Arna site]

19th Street, east of 8th Avenue this afternoon: the signs read: "NO PARKING 8am to 6pm"

In 1962, at the peak of urban flight, New York City law was changed to permit police officers to live outside the city for the first time in its history. New York hasn't been the same since. Although there have been many more frightening consequences, here we see one of the most visible.

Each of the vehicles shown above, almost all privately-owned and almost all SUVs, had large police permits lying on their dashboards. The 10th Precinct headquarters is located mid-block. So while they're already getting free parking, apparently the street itself isn't big enough for these commuters' monsters. The narrow sidewalk of this quiet, tree-shaded residential block has to be commandeered for their convenience.

This is a scene reproduced all over the city, wherever there are police (or fire) stations. It's no wonder that police routinely ignore threats to the safety and convenience of millions of New York pedestrians; the officers we pay for are essentially part of an occupying army, and they don't know how to use their feet. I won't even bring up large squad cars regularly double parked outside Krispy Kreme, or routinely blocking busy pedestrian crosswalks.

Incidently, the continued presence of these angle-parked precinct officers' private tanks even at night makes the street signs somewhat disingenuous:

policeparking 1.JPG
the same block at 7:30pm last Friday

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

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