May 2003 Archives

I had dinner with a friend a few nights ago who shocked me by saying the U.S. had the most diverse media in the world. He is someone I respect as an AIDS/queer activist, who was arrested at the Matthew Shepard march in 1998 plus a number of other times, but who seems to have bought into what our government and the mainstream press are selling. He was also untroubled by the stifling of dissent, even to the point of arresting legal protesters standing on a sidewalk or questioning them about their political beliefs, feeling that it was mostly "foreigners" who should be worried.

It's one of the main reasons I stopped posting for over a week. If people like him feel that way, I'm not sure I see much of a point in doing anything or even writing about what's going on. I'm feeling that maybe I should devote my energies to trying to make more of a difference locally: spending my money and time on helping NYC and the most physically or economically vulnerable people here and elsewhere in the U.S. (but mostly in NYC). Probably my biggest concern outside of NYC is for gay kids, like the kid in Arkansas who was outed by school officials and forced to read the Bible.

After that complaint, to illustrate my point about the media, the British press is all over the story of "hyped" intelligence -- or lies if you prefer -- as the reason to go to war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction. The Independent also has a story about the illegal use of cluster bombs. A selection:

The Independent

  • Government blames spies over war
    A senior minister warned yesterday that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would constitute "Britain's biggest ever intelligence failure" and would trigger an overhaul of the security services.

    The minister told The Independent that the security services were responsible for Downing Street's uncompromising stance on Saddam Hussein's weapons. He spoke after a row erupted between politicians and the intelligence community over the Government's justification for going to war.

    A senior intelligence official also told the BBC that Downing Street had wanted the Government dossier outlining Saddam's capability "sexed up" and that Downing Street included information against security service advice.

    Meanwhile, Washington dealt another devastating blow to Tony Blair, who was visiting troops in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, said that disarming Saddam of illegal weapons was nothing more than a "bureaucratic reason" for war.

    He told Vanity Fair magazine that members of the divided White House cabinet pushed the issue because it was the only way they could present a united front.

  • Allied use of cluster bombs illegal, minister admits
    The Government admitted during the war on Iraq that the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets would "not be legal", a letter obtained by The Independent has revealed.

    Anti-landmine charities claimed last night that the letter by Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, proved that the Ministry of Defence had broken international law by using the munitions in towns and cities.


    Mr Ingram stressed that the British armed forces strove to act in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. "It is clear that when we apply these principles there will be occasions when the use of cluster bombs against certain targets would not be legal," he wrote. "There will be occasions when the use of other munitions would be legal but the use of cluster bombs would not."

    Richard Lloyd, director of the charity Landmine Action, said the letter, with yesterday's admission, proved the Geneva Conventions were knowingly breached. "Mr Ingram has admitted the Government acted outside the law," he said.

The Times

  • Britain and US urged to show arms evidence
    PRESSURE was growing on Tony Blair and President Bush last night to publish the evidence on weapons of mass destruction that they used to justify going to war in Iraq.

    Scores of MPs are backing an early day motion demanding that the Government spell out its case after a minister admitted that an important claim about Saddam Hussein’s weapons was based on uncorroborated information.

The Mirror

    EVIDENCE against Saddam Hussein was "sexed up" on Downing Street orders because it was not damning enough to justify war on Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.

    An intelligence source said No10 spin doctors ordered them to distort the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It was "transformed" before publication to make it "sexier" - including a claim that WMDs could be ready for use in 45 minutes.

The Guardian

  • Blair: WMD dossier claims 'absurd'
    Tony Blair today made an angry but opaque denial of accusations that Downing Street asked for a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to be "sexed up".

    Speaking in Poland ahead of a speech on the extension of the EU, Mr Blair said it was "completely absurd" to suggest that MI6 was made to "invent some piece of evidence".

    However, the actual allegation, made to the BBC yesterday by a senior security official, was that the government had asked for the document to be "sexed up".

    Explaining why it had taken 24 hours for the prime minister to answer the allegations, Mr Blair said he had "only caught up overnight" with the claims, although he spent yesterday in Iraq, with a mobile office.


  • Iraq's 'weapons' doubts
    So is the Bush administration backing away from its insistence that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the war?

    The public justification for the British and American decision to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein was the clear and imminent threat said to have been posed by his regime's weapons of mass destruction.


    While the Americans and British have insisted that significant resources are being deployed in the hunt, the fact remains that many sensitive sites - including Iraqi nuclear facilities - may well have been looted and potential evidence destroyed.

If I search on Google News for the Wolfowitz story about WMD being "just a bureaucratic reason" for war, at the moment I don't get too much U.S. media. The NY Times is a Krugman column (worth reading), and The Boston Globe story that shows up is from Reuters:

'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,'' Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair magazine's July issue.


Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been ''almost unnoticed but huge'' -- namely that the ousting of Hussein would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major Al Qaeda grievance.

''Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door'' to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.

The magazine said he made the remarks days before suicide bombings, attributed to Al Qaeda, against Western targets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Casablanca, Morocco, two weeks ago that killed 75 people.

I think Israel should be worried. It sounds like we found a new "aircraft carrier" in the Middle East.

We're rich, you're dead

"We're rich, you're dead." Finally, an honest tobacco company.

Happy Monkey Drawing

Happy monkey drawing, courtesy of Witold Riedel

Dancing satyr of Praxiteles

satyr1.jpg  satyr2.jpg

See, I read Liz Smith for the culture. I only saw this story in her column -- that the bronze dancing satyr found four years ago by Sicilian fishermen, and believed to be by Praxiteles(!) has gone on display at the Palazzo Montecitorio, the Italian Parliament.

Here is an article (in Italian) in Panorama, and one (in English) from

David Beckham

David Beckham has cornrows!

War Profiteers playing cards

Get your War Profiteers playing card deck here.

I keep seeing bloggers and other people complaining about how the smoking ban is the worst thing that has happened to New York, that it's a symptom of what's wrong with New York. Witness Liz Smith's column today:

THE NIGHT BEFORE, I had attended an atypical dinner party on Park Avenue. (Atypical in that the food was simply great!) Here's what people talked about, first and foremost: the mayor's anti-smoking law, and how even people who don't smoke are deploring it and saying it has hurt him politically more than anything else he has done or ever will do. (Nobody mentioned the city economy, the war or the Middle East. It was as if that was too troubling to touch. But one network biggie did drop a few hints after dinner about the chaos now in Iraq.)

This city endured Giuliani, with the rabid enforcement of no-dancing regulations in bars, the random targeting of clubs for raids and searches, the passage of anti-stripper bar laws that wouldn't happen in Iowa, without these people getting too upset. But unless you allow them to expose others to second-hand smoke, then -- and only then -- has fascism begun to arrive.

As I write this, NYC is watching its police force behave as badly under Bloomberg as it did under Giuliani, and I can't imagine that he isn't involved. The city continues to lose lawsuits over its treatment of political demonstrators, but chooses to continue to violate their rights and pay out settlements. We're laying off people because of a budget crunch, but the city has budgeted $5 million for such cases next year. Go read James for a good post on this subject.

This weekend the papers have articles about a 57-year-old woman in Harlem dying of a heart attack after the police broke down her door, threw in a stun grenade, and handcuffed her in a drug raid that was at the wrong address. I don't need to mention that she was not white, because we all know the NYPD would never behave in this manner in a predominantly white neighborhood. You can go read James's post on it, and then read Jimmy Breslin, which includes this:

She has lived there for 23 years. The police might have asked neighbors about the occupant of the apartment next door. They did not. Instead, with wanton, criminal disregard they recklessly violated the civil rights of Ms. Spruill and this is a matter that should land them as defendants in federal criminal court.

This morning, while Ms. Spruill will not be in church, George Bush and his prayer book will be in his church.

George Bush is a Jesus freak and a television tough guy.

He wants Americans to replace the saliva in their mouths with blood. He creates the national atmosphere of hate and fear and crackdown and violence.

His creed of scathing contempt and preventive detention and pre-emptive bombing strikes at the smallest country he can find has turned this country's life into dreadful fear and hate everywhere.

And in Harlem on Friday, it helped cause the death of Alberta Spruill, who worked every day of her life and went to church every Sunday.

NY Newsday has good coverage of this story today, including the fact that the police conducted the raid without doing any verification of their informant's report.

I can't finish without one last item from Newsday. They have a big story about city parks. Increasingly, the nicest ones like Central Park and Bryant Park are being privatized, and guards are there to make sure the "wrong kind of people" don't patronize them. The small story on Bryant Park ends with this:

Unlike most public parks, however, Bryant Park is not entirely egalitarian. Stand out from the BlackBerryed corporate crowd, and you may be asked to state your business.

So it was when a large security guard interrupted a reporter's interview with a parkgoer to demand credentials. "We like to know what's going on," he said.

The dramatic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch was just that -- a staged drama. We're not likely to see this story in the American media except for certain outlets like Salon -- see their coverage.

I'm getting my information from a story in the Guardian. Note the paragraph I put in bold. They used blanks while staging the rescue for their cameras.

Her rescue will go down as one of the most stunning pieces of news management yet conceived. It provides a remarkable insight into the real influence of Hollywood producers on the Pentagon's media managers, and has produced a template from which America hopes to present its future wars.

But the American media tactics, culminating in the Lynch episode, infuriated the British, who were supposed to be working alongside them in Doha, Qatar. This Sunday, the BBC's Correspondent programme reveals the inside story of the rescue that may not have been as heroic as portrayed, and of divisions at the heart of the allies' media operation.

"In reality we had two different styles of news media management," says Group Captain Al Lockwood, the British army spokesman at central command. "I feel fortunate to have been part of the UK one."


The doctors in Nassiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for Lynch in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital, and one of only two nurses on the floor. "I was like a mother to her and she was like a daughter,"says Khalida Shinah.

"We gave her three bottles of blood, two of them from the medical staff because there was no blood at this time,"said Dr Harith al-Houssona, who looked after her throughout her ordeal. "I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle. Then I did another examination. There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident," he recalled. "They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."

The doctors told us that the day before the special forces swooped on the hospital the Iraqi military had fled. Hassam Hamoud, a waiter at a local restaurant, said he saw the American advance party land in the town. He said the team's Arabic interpreter asked him where the hospital was. "He asked: 'Are there any Fedayeen over there?' and I said, 'No'." All the same, the next day "America's finest warriors" descended on the building.

"We heard the noise of helicopters," says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. "We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital.

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling. The Americans took no chances, restraining doctors and a patient who was handcuffed to a bed frame.

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire. They fled just in time back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.

I [heart] New York


Via, I learn that Maurizio Cattelan has created a limited (48) edition t-shirt that says I [heart] New York, in Arabic.


If the link fails, go to Printed Matter and find it.

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot blames gays, Muslims, and immigrants for "ruining" France.

Anything for the troops

Doesn't anyone care what it feels like to people in Manhattan when a commercial jet flies low over lower Manhattan? We're becoming so militarized that we'll do anything for the benefit of the troops without thinking about how it affects anyone else.

A commercial plane carrying returning military personnel flew near the Statue of Liberty and low over midtown Manhattan, prompting emergency calls from some concerned onlookers.

The Continental Airlines plane, a Boeing 777, was given permission to change its flight plan as it approached its destination of Newark Liberty International Airport at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The flight pattern was intended ''to provide a special homecoming for members of our armed forces,'' the FAA said in a statement.

Stop the FCC

Go check out Move On for actions to take to stop the FCC's destruction of media consolidation regulations:

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission intends to lift restrictions on media ownership that could allow your local newspaper, cable provider, radio stations, and TV channels all to be owned by one company. The result could be the disappearance of the checks and balances provided by a competitive media marketplace -- and huge cutbacks in local news and reporting. Good, balanced information is the basis for our democracy. That's why we're asking that:
"Congress and the FCC should stop media deregulation and work to make the media diverse, competitive, balanced, and fair."

I have added a link to Move On over there on the right side. It's a good group to watch for information on all sorts of evil-doing from the folks in Washington.

As James has said -- see here for example -- our regime needs the threat of war and terrorism to keep it in power. Last week in a NY Times column, Paul Krugman said:

Let me be frank. Why is the failure to find any evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program, or vast quantities of chemical and biological weapons (a few drums don't qualify -- though we haven't found even that) a big deal? Mainly because it feeds suspicions that the war wasn't waged to eliminate real threats. This suspicion is further fed by the administration's lackadaisical attitude toward those supposed threats once Baghdad fell. For example, Iraq's main nuclear waste dump wasn't secured until a few days ago, by which time it had been thoroughly looted. So was it all about the photo ops?

It's in the paid archives of the Times now, so go here for an excerpt.

That is the only mention of this fact in the U.S. media that I have been able to find via Google News. The News 24 (South Africa) web site has this:

On April 11, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the facility and nearby Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center urgently required protection from looters. US Central Command sent soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division.

But inspectors visiting the site on Saturday [May 3] found that the soldiers had not been able to keep looters out, and had moreover been allowing Iraqis who said they were employees of the facility to go inside.


A would-be immigrant is hugged to be protected from the cold by a Spanish soldier on the Punta Paloma beach in Tarifa, Spain Thursday May 8, 2003. Some 50 immigrants survived the crossing arriving in a small boat from Morocco Thursday. (AP Photo/R. Perales)


A Spanish soldier cares for an illegal immigrant with symptoms of hypothermia, found near the southern town of Tarifa, May 8, 2003. Tarifa is the nearest point to Africa from Europe and a popular entry point for thousands of illegal immigrants. (REUTERS/Anton Meres)

In case anyone's feeling very generous, and wondering what to get me for my birthday coming up in June, may I suggest this Richter landscape?


This looks cool

I just heard about this music performance on May 18:

Sunday, May 18th, 2003
Power: A Cabaret

7:00 PM

Joe's Pub at the Public Theater

World-premiere songs commissioned by Sequitur:
Elena Kats-Chernin
Ned Rorem
Victoria Bond
Stephen Coxe
William Rhoads
Robert Maggio
Robert Carl
Frances Thorne

And classic cabaret favorites by:
Marc Blitzstein
Kurt Weill
Michael John LaChiusa
Noel Coward
Francine Trester

Bring back the commuter tax

I got into a discussion on Scott's site a while back about the fairness of the commuter tax, given the resources used by commuters, and the fact that all of those suburban New Jersey houses would be basically worthless without NYC as a functioning city. A recent study reminds us of the economic fairness of taxing commuters versus funding all city services on the backs of the residents:

The statistics, analyzed by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College, show that people who commute from the New York suburbs to the city make far more money, are more educated and more likely to have jobs in fields like finance, management and the professions.

The average suburban commuter earned $75,439, according to the data from the 2000 census released last month. The average for city residents who work in the city was $41,889, and for suburbanites working in the suburbs, $41,031.

The census also shows that the commuters are more likely than others to be white, male and married. Nearly one in four had an advanced degree, and nearly 55 percent had completed college at a minimum.

Comparable 2000 figures for commuters from New Jersey and Connecticut are not yet available. But the 1990 census shows a similar pattern: people from New Jersey and Connecticut who commuted to New York City made much more than those who did not.

Now, why would anyone expect something sexy to happen in an opera about Don Juan? From MSNBC, the story of a production of Don Giovanni that had to be "edited". It's not enough for people to home-school their kids -- they have to arrange for censorship of any arts productions they might see too.

Opera Colorado directors have scrapped a racy scene from a production of "Don Giovanni" that prompted complaints from parents of home-schooled students who watched a dress rehearsal. The scene featuring a woman in a one-piece bustier, fishnet stockings, garter belt and high heels cavorting with a sometimes shirtless Don Juan Giovanni will be replaced with a food fight in some performances.


"It was kind of hard to miss what they were doing. It was pretty blatant," said Candice Cirbo, who attended the rehearsal with the group and her sixth-grade daughter.

Opera spokesman Rex Fuller said earlier this week that the graphic action in the opera had been ordered toned down several days beforehand by the opera president and general director, Peter Russell.

Intermittent posting

My iBook has been in the shop since last Thursday, so I'm not posting too often. I'm relying on my Dell desktop running, yes, Windows 98 until it comes back. What follows is a random assortment of my adventures and observations over the last few days.

On Sunday afternoon we went to Greenpoint to see Meredith Allen's show of Williamsburg art world people at im in iL. Since the G is not a train to be used lightly, we took the L to Bedford and walked the mile or so to the gallery in Greenpoint. I hadn't spent much time in Greenpoint, and was pleasantly surprised by the number of 19th century buildings, plus stores and streets that still have some integrity. We even saw a Greek Revival house just off Manhattan Avenue! There are several independent Polish language bookstores in the neighborhood, when Chelsea doesn't even have one independent "new books" bookstore. Another cool discovery was "Java and Wood", a furniture / coffee shop at 1011 Manhattan Ave. Check it out when you're in the area.

When we were waiting in the subway, I saw a young man with sunglasses, Capri pants, and an Aunt Jemima-style kerchief on his head. Fabulous! It was a welcome antidote to seeing a Chelsea boy at the gym earlier in the weekend wearing a du rag with his Abercrombie & Fitch cargo pants. Ugh.

Recently seen art of note:

  • Stas Orlovski at Mixed Greens
  • "Undesire", curated by Vasif Kortun, at Apex Art -- great, great show. There is a video of two young boys singing and dancing in an ATM room, by an artist named Fikret Atay. He lives close to the Iraqi border in Turkey, in a depressed village called Batman. I had trouble tearing myself away from the video to look at anything else in the show. The video by the Irish artist Phil Collins (not the singer), titled Baghdad Screen Tests, consists of several citizens of Baghdad sitting silently, looking at the camera -- filmed before the war started. It is accompanied by recordings of various pop songs, ranging from Elvis to The Smiths. Finally, the drawings of Dan Perjovschi, which you have probably seen on the invitation, are sweet and scathing at the same time.
  • Carl Scholz's flawlessly "smoothed out" Jaguar at Momenta

One last art item is Emily Noelle Lambert at the Mini minimarket at 218 Bedford (near Earwax, etc.). We walked into the shop for the first time, and noticed Emily's work on exhibit in the store. After a few minutes we decided we had to purchase one of the (very affordable) works. I don't see something too close to what we bought on the web site, but check out a few interesting things I found on her site: Castle, Bird, and Charles and Smokey.

Hillary's no friend of queers

I have never understood why so many homos seems to think Hillary Clinton is somehow on our side. She takes our money and shows up and gay fundraisers, but that's the extent of her "support". While running for the Senate, she said she would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

It has now been one week since Senator Santorum's remarks, and as this article in the Gay City News reminds us, she hasn't managed to make any statement whatsoever. As of today, there's no statement on Mr. Santorum on her web site, but she has found the time to announce legislation to establish "National Purple Heart Recognition Day" and praise Schweizer Aircraft Corporation and its support of our troops.

Chuck Schumer took a week to come up with a statement, but there's nothing on his web site. He lives in Park Slope, so he has plenty of queer neighbors!

You can contact our illustrious senators here: Clinton and Schumer. Hillary doesn't have "Gay and Lesbian issues" in the topic choices, but Schumer does.


WebCollage is a program that creates collages out of random images found on the Web.
[via Giornale Nuovo]

Clarina Bezzola

Recommended opening tonight, May 1, 6-9pm with a performance at 7pm: Clarina Bezzola at Cynthia Broan.

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