Jack's photos
Photo album
« October 2006 »
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Sunday, 22 October 2006
Closed to debate
Topic: politics

With New York’s US Senate race grinding to its inevitable outcome, I’ve been girding my loins – and realizing that discomforting old expression fits the situation all too well. I can actually feel a tightness south of the solar plexus when I think about Hillary Clinton’s easy victory. Here’s a candidate that preserves a reputation as a progressive while being pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-corporate power and money, pro-inadequate health care, pro-homophobic marriage restrictions. Radicals, and even liberals, are justified in mourning, “With friends like that…”

Sure, she’s better than Republican challenger John Spencer, and way ahead of Alaric and Tamerlane, but no civilized person should cast a vote for her.

Yet there she is, at the head of the pack. And there she’ll stay, thanks in part to local institutions with curious ideas about democratic forms and intellectual honesty.

Here’s what I mean: Last Friday night, Clinton and Spencer took part in a “debate” – the term now meaning banter between candidates who basically are in agreement, answering journalists who move in lockstep – hosted by the University of Rochester. Time Warner’s R News broadcast the event from Strong Auditorium; WXXI carried the audio. As reported later on R News, everything looked peachy. No notes of discord, in the hall or outside. A fine exercise in electoral politics, and a credit to the home team.

But R News left out the real story. And the next morning, the D&C hardly did better, with this one sentence way down in a piece by Joseph Spector: “Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Senate, was not included in the event, drawing protests from him and the League of Women Voters.” You  have to look elsewhere in the news to find out what really happened. Hawkins didn’t take his exclusion lying down. He called the event a “farce” and likened the selection process to the accomplishments of Boss Tweed. And he noted that all four anti-war candidates (himself, a Libertarian, and two socialists) had been undemocratically dumped.

The League of Women Voters was mighty pissed, too, or whatever expression fits their respectable image. As reported by news outlets here and there, the League had determined, using in-house criteria that allow some subjective application but still are relatively fair, that the debates should include Hawkins along with Clinton and Spencer. Nevertheless, the local newspeople and the University went ahead with the farce.

This was particularly galling in the UR’s case – an institution of “higher learning” in cahoots with those who trample the most basic principles of fairness. Okay, okay – what planet am I on? We’re talking about the same institution that hosts the Simon School.

Luckily, we’ve got the internet, and you can check out the Hawkins campaign at Brace yourself: this is a pablum-free-zone, with well-thought out statements on the full range of issues. If you get tired of being challenged and respected as a voter, you can switch back to Hillary or John for a snooze.


Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:42 EDT
Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006 21:23 EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 15 October 2006
Parkland security
Topic: urban issues

On  and on goes the moralistic crusade against former Congressmember Mark Foley, who admittedly abused his position of authority while pursuing some Congressional pages (young men, not children exactly). For Foley, it’s all over, and the case is stirring up yet more homophobia in Republican ranks. Probably a few more heads will roll. Unfortunately, some of those heads will belong to low-ranking gay staffers who've been quietly pursuing their careers, hoping against hope that the neocon, religio-fascist wave would break and recede. 

True, a greater good may come of this: The crusade might contribute to Republican electoral losses in key districts, notably including that of Tom Reynolds, Western New York’s Bushie Supreme. The Republicans could even lose control of Congress altogether. But the bipartisan pontificating and posing still stink. How many Reps and Senators are in high dudgeon about mass murders by the US military on their watch – and essentially on their orders?

Then there’s a crusade that’s keeping the home fires burning. Friday’s D&C carried another installment about the hapless former head of the Greece Chamber of Commerce, Skip Beaver. He and another middle-aged man were arrested last month in Genesee Valley Park for alleged lewd behavior, an encounter at sundown behind a public bathroom. Beaver, who’s full name has predictably inspired sophomoric comments about sexual orientation, left his position with the Chamber shortly after the arrest. We can wonder whether his straight-laced bosses dumped him, or he left freely, but the fact is he lost his job while still legally presumed innocent. Worse, his name has been splashed all over the front pages. And for what? Fooling around with a 61-year-old in the shadows? There has been no hint that this was anything but consensual. Nor have there been reports of park users harmed, outraged, or even inconvenienced by what went on. Exactly what real offense was committed?

Sounds like another chapter of cops gone wild. A few years ago I spoke to a man who was arrested in GV Park, which has long been known as a gay cruising area. This man had to struggle with the system for months; finally the charges were dropped on a technicality that the higher-ups, at least, must have known about: the two men were playing in a private vehicle and thus not guilty of “public lewdness.” So why did John Law go after them? For the same reason that, time after time, he’s gone after men at Durand Eastman, Genesee Valley, Highland Park, and other locations: the poor dear, defender of a sham morality, is suffering from a horrible persecution complex - in this instance, a complex mixture of psychological flaws that causes him to hound innocent people. He can’t help himself.

And JL’s got lots of company – lots of big pricks on public display throughout the hierarchy. Nor should we fail to note the smaller pricks in the mass media, who ruin lives while pretending to satisfy our right to know.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 21:33 EDT
Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006 20:11 EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Sunday, 8 October 2006
Divine and demonic missions
Topic: antiwar
Recently, on one of the finest of those summery autumn evenings we’ve been having, I attended a wedding at a winery high above Seneca Lake. The scene was magical: under a slate blue sky, we faced the setting sun, and the receding light kept the nearby vineyards crisply in focus as the lake surface darkened into invisibility. All this was stiff aesthetic competition for the ceremony itself – but the wedding party, not to mention a violin duo off to the side, made a pretty picture, too.
But into every postcard image must come a dissonance. And in this case, it was a note of tragedy: a young man who’d been close to the bride and groom had recently been killed in Iraq, and his absence was sorely felt at such a hope-filled event. The pastor who was officiating summed up everyone’s feelings, or tried to. I found my mind wandering among the ironies and contradictions, a kind of half-sleep of the moral consciousness, though I snapped fully awake when I heard the pastor say what most in his profession trot out at such moments – stuff about sacrifice for god and country and the good of people everywhere. I think a let out an audible sigh at that instant. And believe me, it was only a hundredth of what I wanted to express. Yes, the young man was sacrificed – but only for greed and the lust for power and revenge. I mused that the pastoral claptrap might have worked in a church basement, but out in the glories of nature such as the Finger Lakes can illuminate, it seemed like an especially atrocious lie.
So today I picked up the Democrat and Chronicle, and what did I see? An article about a local man, 28 years old, who was killed in (and by) Bush’s war on terrorism. And what language attached to this fresh tragedy from Iraq? Reverend so-and-so contended that for the deceased, "the challenge of Jesus was a call to arms." I’m actually grateful for this holy perspective, since it helpfully compresses the big lie into bumper-sticker dimensions. What was the reverend gentleman thinking? Sure, he had to find words to soothe, not confront, the mourners. And maybe he was masking his feelings and opinions, calibrating his words in the knowledge that the young man actually misunderstood his own mission in life (and death) - that the dead man had taken Jesus’s challenge exactly the wrong way and certainly to the wrong place.
But really, I don’t think the nuances played much of a role here. I think the reverend, in a sin of omission or commission, knowingly perverted the message. He played along with the trend – individual and national – to turn the supreme pacifist into a righteous warrior. And to exalt the nation, its violent ways, and its demonic mission.
I’m glad to be an ex-Christian, but if there’s one thing from my religious upbringing that I hold dear, it’s Jesus’s injunction to love your neighbor, including your "enemy." Are such things said at funeral services - or even weddings - these days?

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 15:00 EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 2 October 2006
More troops into the valley of death?
Topic: antiwar

Why do people spend so much time listening to The Brass? I'm not talking about some new ensemble of horns and trombones; I mean the parade of trumpeting generals, including local Marine retiree John Batiste, who are now calling for Don Rumsfeld's head.

If you pay even approximate attention to what these guys are saying, you see there's no cause for joy - just new riffs on the supposed casus belli. The brass are tut-tutting not about US imperialism (of which they are actually the avant garde) nor about mere murder and mayhem (their stock in trade). No, what gets them is Rummy's lack of effectiveness and efficiency, his basic unsuitability for implementing the Powell Doctrine (quick and massive application of force to annihilate the opposition and avoid another "quagmire," i.e. any situation in which the little guy is able to hold out against our high-tech assaults.)

True to form, the generals just want more bodies to finish the job. Take Batiste at his word. This man - perfectly suited to be a corporate executive who gives closed-door, high-priced pep-talks to business types, as he is doing this week at Nazareth College - thinks we need 350,000 US troops on the ground, minimum. At least that's what he told City Newspaper's Tim Macaluso.

The math says it all: Batiste is telling us we're once again fighting with one hand tied behind our back, as right-wingers contended we were in Vietnam. Men like these are constitutionally unable to say a war is wrong and should be stopped, least of all a war that has left blood on their own hands.

I don't care how many times Batiste goes after his former boss. Mr Spit-shine makes me queasy every time he speaks. Besides, Rummy isn't the issue. The issue is the war and occupation, which must be ended with all deliberate speed, primarily on moral and legal grounds. You might even say it's better for the world that Rummy's still in charge. His ineffectiveness might make it harder for US forces to do maximum damage.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 23:38 EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006 09:39 EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 15 September 2006
Tasini wins on principle
Topic: politics

This summer more than a few people took a ride with Jonathan Tasini as he bicycled across New York State to galvanize his primary race against Hillary Clinton. Now the totals are in; Tasini got almost 14 percent of the Monroe County vote for the Dem nomination, and he reportedly got around 17 percent statewide. (The state elections board hasn’t yet posted the certified results.) Not too shabby for someone without instant name recognition or the “power of incumbency.” And oh yeah, Clinton outspent him something like a billion to one.

But the media did their usual part in keeping a principled insurgent in his place. Even a New York Times columnist remarked that “some may even believe that his first name is Little-known, given that he is sometimes referred to as Little-known Jonathan Tasini.” Some, indeed. A few weeks after Haberman made his point, the Times itself called Tasini “Mrs. Clinton’s little-known opponent.” And on primary morning, I heard a WXXI newsman call the shots: Clinton, he said, “is expected to trounce little-known candidate Jonathan Tasini.” I wonder how many iterations of this noxious phrase popped out of newsreaders’ and pundits’ mouths over the months as they systematically withheld the coverage that would have made Tasini well-known to the electorate.

Mindless repetition wasn’t the media’s only, or most grievous sin. In the Democrat and Chronicle, Joseph Spector and Jay Gallagher followed up a perfectly reasonable comment (“Tasini was hoping to pull off an upset modeled on Ned Lamont's surprising victory over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in last month's Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut”) with a bunch of crap, to wit: “But [Tasini] never gained any leverage as he attacked Clinton for not vehemently opposing the war in Iraq.” The crap part is the implication that Clinton opposes the war to some slight degree, and that Tasini would have been satisfied only if she made the rafters ring with demands for withdrawal. But the point is: as a senator, Clinton has been a strong supporter of the war, first by voting for the resolution that started the whole mess, and since then by refusing to repudiate her vote or join with actual anti-war people in Congress. (And don’t forget that Clinton was implicated by more than marriage in the sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the 1990s.)

The local “alternative” joined this media race to the bottom, as well. I couldn’t recall anything much about Tasini in City Newspaper, so I checked the paper’s online archive. The search turned up three items, one of which is a letter-to-the-editor, and another of which is a glancing reference to Tasini in a long article by Krestia DeGeorge on Spitzer nemesis Tom Suozzi. City’s only substantive coverage of the Tasini campaign appeared way back in March, when DeGeorge gave Tasini the equivalent of one decent paragraph in a long piece about a Democratic Party rural conference.

Whatever the vote tally – and Tasini’s 117,000-vote statewide total is no drop in the bucket – the New York peace insurgency aimed at taking back the Senate was well worth the effort. Tasini got voters talking and thinking about the war and Hillary Clinton’s hypocrisies. His platform also called for single-payer health insurance, another sane measure that Hillary Clinton has worked hard to derail. He ran to promote action against global warming, too. From top to bottom, in fact, his positions read like a progressive dream. No wonder he lost. He was just too good to lie or carry water for the folks that make a killing on war and misery.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 22:09 EDT
Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006 18:39 EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older