Politics: September 2006 Archives


the airline's straights-only security rules don't fly

I have now heard from our friend David Leisner, who was quoted in the The New Yorker story I wrote about on Thursday evening. David was one half of the couple which witnessed the threats delivered to two other passengers seated in front of them, a homosexual couple, by (successively) the flight attendent, the purser and the captain of an American Airlines flight en route from Paris to New York. Both he and his partner Ralph Jackson were quoted in the magazine, but David has added some perspective and one damning fact which makes the airline's confrontation even more outrageous than initially reported.

David writes, in part:

You can assure anyone that questions the degree of affection these guys were showing that it was very innocent - hand-holding, resting one's head on the other's shoulder and repeated kissing (but not French kissing!). Nothing disturbing about it at all, unless it had been a straight couple :-).

Also, the New Yorker writer got the punchline wrong: what the captain said to one of the couple was that he would divert the plane not if the arguing continued, but if he heard any more reports of such behavior (kissing). [my italics - JAW] It made an increasingly weird situation even more surreal and disturbing.

[image from pedalcarzone]

I wasn't going to say anything more today about the fifth installment of our annual orgy of mourning and revenge, the anniversary of September 11. But things just got out of hand once we walked into Pierogi this evening and now I can't help myself.

For some this sacred holiday was all about a service held around a small temporary wading pool installed downtown at the bottom of a very big hole (by now the flower-filled tank of water has probably been drained and its parts tossed into some recycling bin), but some of us decided we had to be around other, more thoughtful New Yorkers on the evening of the day which just won't shut up, the drubbing from which most of our countrymen seem to have learned all the wrong lessons.

Barry and I decided to go to Brooklyn, and specifically Williamsburg, always a reasonable choice in stressful times.

Tonight Pierogi Williamsburg threw an opening party for "Matt Marello and Matt Freedman, Five Years After" and it would have been a smash even without the presence of most of Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan's art world working aristocracy and creative yeomanry. Matt Marello was in Gallery 1. From the press release:

Matt Marello's "1968/2001" is an extensive multimedia presentation based on the phenomenon of apophenia [the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, according to the press release]. A few years ago, while digesting the events of 9/11, Marello began to notice an odd synchronicity between the destruction of the World Trade Center and Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi epic, "2001: A Space Odyssey." His further explorations led him into a strange and murky world, linking together such diverse elements as the moon, apes, 9/11, "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the historically pivotal years 1968 and 2001.

Matt Morello Lenticulars: Ground Zero/Planet of the Apes/Apollo 8 Astronauts/Escape from the Planet of the Apes 2006
2 Lenticular prints 20" x 63" [large detail of installation]

Matt Morello Bone (WTC)/Plane (2001: Space Odyssey) 2006 large format ink-jet print 60" x 158" [large detail of installation]

Matt Freedman's "Twin Twin II" in Gallery 2 was a wonderfully silly and welcome magical antidote to the baneful effects of our self-inflicted twenty-first century affliction: 9/11 24/7. From the artist:

I kept coming around to the notion that the images of the towers were sort of recurring waking dreams, and that collecting them should be a continuing process of perception and manipulation. What I keep looking for in all the material I am using is something uncanny--either in the found objects themselves, or in the nature of the interventions I make--that leaves a lingering sense of unresolved discomfort in the mind of the viewer. The overriding and consciously dumb idea behind the work is that whatever else the towers are, they are definitely not gone from our lives, and they never will be. (Freedman, 2006)

Thumbnails of only a very few of the twinned objects seen tonight in Freedman's ongoing project:










Presto! Exorcism complete.

I suggest we haven't had another terrorist attack within our borders in these five years precisely because it hasn't been necessary.

Bush has managed to exactly fulfill the objectives of the last one. To begin with, it's now official: He's murdered more Americans in Iraq alone than the terrorists murdered in the destruction of the World Trade Center (and not all of those were American citizens).

This administration has also destroyed America's ability to do anything but think about, or rather pretend to think about, the threat of another strike, and it has succeeded in destroying whatever sympathy or support the world had extended to a wounded nation immediately after September 11, 2001.

Even absent this regime's record of abysmal incompetence, ordinary and extraordinary domestic imperatives which demand political attention have been forgotten or deliberately ignored largely because of our fear of terrorism and the manipulation of those fears. The same factors have caused us to casually abandon most of the fundamental liberties which were once our boast and the envy of much of the world.

Because we are tied down in a totally misconceived and disastrous adventure in the Middle East the world's only remaining "superpower" is virtually helpless to impact events elsewhere, especially since we have also managed to isolate ourselves diplomatically.

Finally, because our domestic political process has been so corrupted by fear, simple timidity, opportunism, greed and cynicism we are arguably in an economic decline from which we may not recover even if we somehow manage to shift political personnel between now and 2008. We are intellectually and morally bankrupt.

Only because the worst may be yet to come, I won't say the terrorist victory is already complete. But I'll wager they've been smiling for five years.

some kind of "Silence in the Streets", NYC, March 23, 2003

I saw this "Editorial Observer" piece by Andrew Rosenthal in yesterday's NYTimes and I could hardly believe my eyes. The writer asks, in the words of the piece's title, "There Is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?”, and then goes on to complain about how indifferent to injustice, or plain soft or cowardly, today's generation is when compared to the nobility of his own:

. . . it’s hard to imagine anyone on today’s campuses willing to face armed troops. Is there anything they care about that much?

Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson — in so many ways a powerful, progressive president — out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush — in so many ways a weak, regressive president — was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.

Yes, the lack of a military draft is an important explanation for the lack of political involvement on today's campuses, but Rosenthal is being more than a little disingenuous in not mentioning the most important element of what he portrays as, at best, the apathy of our youth.

I'm outraged that an Assistant Managing Editor of the Times can pretend to be blind to the fact that we have taken to the streets, repeatedly, in numbers of up to a million people in New York alone. We were virtually ignored by our President, our Senators and Representatives, our courts and, most importantly, our media, notably his own employer. Little has changed even today, when two thirds of the country opposes the Iraq War and just about everything else done by this administration. We've also voted, tried to nominate candidates, written letters, made phone calls, leafletted, hung posters, organized action groups, started committees and blogs, created art and eventually screamed at the top of our lungs. We've been arrested for protesting, or for looking like we were going to protest, and sometimes we've been injured or held for days without charges. We remain nevertheless virtually invisible and even less effective in impacting Washington than, say, Miami Cubans have had in influencing Havana. Now there's something worth thinking about, Mr. Rosenthal.

Fortunately some Times readers know a fool or a villain when they spot one, as I was pleased to learn in going through all five letters on the subject of his column which appeared in today's edition. Theodore S. Voelker speaks for so many of us:

Andrew Rosenthal raises a timely question. The silence in the streets is partly a sign of millions of tired or retired protesters. There is also silence because we currently have an administration that would not listen to protests if 200 million Americans marched on Washington.
And Nancy Goor is more specific:
I think one reason we have so few protests is that the news media in general did not and do not cover any protests in more than a cursory way.

From the earliest antiwar marches, protesters learned that it wasn’t worth the effort because their demonstrations were not covered by the news media and thus their message was not reaching their audience.

But Leslie Kauffman gets right to the heart of the matter:
Andrew Rosenthal writes that there is silence in the streets about the Iraq war. Does he mean the streets of New York City, where a million people have marched and protested since before the war? Five major antiwar demonstrations have been held here since February 2003, most recently last April 29.

Or is Mr. Rosenthal referring to the streets of Washington, where hundreds of thousands of people have marched and protested since before the war? At least four major antiwar demonstrations have been held there since January 2003.

More than 1,000 local antiwar groups are active in at least 530 cities and towns. Every week since the war began, peace vigils have taken place in at least 90 locales.

Mr. Rosenthal says that “it takes crowds to get America’s attention.” Large crowds have consistently taken to the streets to call for the troops to come home. Why is the scope of today’s antiwar movement, like the war itself, “largely hidden from American eyes”?

The idiot in Crawford would have gotten nowhere without the pass he got from the commercial media from the very beginning; the ultimate blame for our potentially fatal national agony, Mr. Rosenthal (and you should be squirming by now), lies on your own conscience and that of almost every editor and publisher in America.

In fact that failure began at least as far back as the campaign of 2000, but who's counting anymore.

[image from brama.com]

Josh Wolf, the young California video blogger and freelance journalist who was imprisoned August 1 for refusing to turn over videos of a political protest to a federal grand jury, has just been freed on bail by a federal appeals court, exactly one month later.


Wolf has left the Dublin prison facility, but he hasn't left the community he found there. Yesterday, before once again thanking those who have supported him while he was inside, he wound up his statement before the press:

I’m sure that many of you are curious about my experiences being imprisoned in Dublin; I have been very fortunate and much of my time incarcerated was actually quite positive. While locked up, I met many fellow prisoners who are truly stellar individuals and a observed a community which is actually one of the healthiest that I have ever lived in. To my friends in Unit J2, thanks for everything and I wish you all the best of luck.

In an effort to help get the stories of those incarcerated out into the world, I have started to develop a not-for-profit organization which will be known, for now, as prisonblogs.net – the project is dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, and is something that I am very excited about. Expect more details about this initiative in the coming weeks.

For more on the story of Wolf's release, see the San Francisco Chronicle and his own website.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from September 2006.

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