August 30, 2004
The Times Buys the Ashcroft Line
Today's New York Times story on the AIPAC spy ring functioned as an uncritical transmission belt for the pre-emptive excuses being offered by John Ashcroft's Justice Department explaining in advance why there will be no indictments: it's all the media's fault, of course, for having broken the story prematurely, thus spooking (if you'll forgive the pun) possible witnesses. But on the CBS Evening News, where the story first broke, Dan Rather tonight made a point of revealing that the law enforcement sources who confirmed to Leslie Stahl the investigation of AIPAC and its Feithian footpad had absolutely no objection to the airing of a report on the probe. The paranoid might wonder if, in an election year in which the president is pandering like crazy to Sharon and his crowd in order to break off shards of the U.S. Jewish vote, the Bushies leaked news of the investigation in order to kill it...
What Should the Protesters Be Saying?
In the first day of protests at the Republican National Convention, Sunday's UFPJ-led march can be deemed a success in terms of its numbers. And there was little video of violence to give the Bush spin machine ammunition. About the only serious incidence of violence came in an act of juvenalia worthy of a high school football dispute, when the Black Mask group thought it clever to dissumulate smoke bombs in their cardboard picket handles and set fire to a paper-mache dragon with one of them. As police were arresting the smoke-bomber, the rowdier types began throwing police barriers at the cops. The result of all this is that, allegedly because a cop was injured, nine of the protestors find themselves chared with felony assault, a rather heavy charge in such a matter. Serious prison terms may be in their futures. Thus, the smoke bombs wound up burning those who ignited them, and time and energy and money that should go into organizing work will now be diverted to a legal defense of the incautious pranksters--more proof of the kind of counterproductive results when straying from the path of rigorous nonviolence. 'Twas ever thus...
But in terms of message, the protest was too scattershot to be effective. Very little except sentiments antipathetic to the president of a very general nature came through on the tube. The anti-war movement needs to do some serious thinking about what its message should be--a message that must be predicated on analysis grounded in reality--and how that message should be conveyed.
One bit of misguidance for the antiwar movement has come from a surprising source. Naomi Klein, whom I've always taken for a smart cookie, offered up the idiotic slogan "Bring Najaf to New York," in a terribly misguided column in The Nation that read like a defense, or at least a justification, of Muqtada al-Sadr. My friend and colleague Marc Cooper dissected Naomi's column on his blog. While I may not agree with every single bit of Marc's language and formulations, he is certainly on the right track (check out the must-read documents from the Iraqi left on Muqtada al -Sadr which Marc quotes extensively).
It is useful to remember that the deeply flawed logic of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" motored US policy in the Cold War, driving it to embrace all manner of repressive regimes and dictators from Franco to Pinochet to Suharto. That's why it's sad to see Klein engage in the same sort of thinking in her column justifying the depradations of the so-called "Mahdi Army" as somehow expressing the desire of genuine Iraqi democrats. Muqtada al-Sadr is a sanguineous religious fanatic, whose thuggish followers engage in the slaughter of the innocents. They have killed more Iraqi civilians in their guerilla campaign against American occupation than they have occupiers.
Back in November 2002, many months before the invasion of Iraq, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (an organization I have long supported) launched an appeal--which I and many other antiwar intellectuals, artists, and agitators signed--entitled, "We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and the U.S. War on Iraq: A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy." The appeal concluded by saying: "Ordinary Iraqis, and people everywhere, need to know that there is another America, made up of those who both recognize the urgent need for democratic change in the Middle East and reject our government's militaristic and imperial foreign policy. By signing this statement we declare our intention to work for a new democratic U.S. foreign policy. That means helping to rein in the war-makers and building the most powerful antiwar movement possible, and at the same time forging links of solidarity and concrete support for democratic forces in Iraq and throughout the Middle East."
That is a principle which is more than ever relevant today, at a time when the genuinely democratic forces in Iraq are caught in pincer between the U.S. puppet government under the thug Alawi--which has been cavalier in suspending fundamental liberties and imposing censorship at gunpoint--and sectarian warlords like the odious religious primitive Muqtada al-Sadr. As a gay man, I am particularly aware of the fate that would await people like me under al-Sadr's interpretation of the sharia if he ever came to power. The heroic blogger Salaam Pax, a gay Iraqi whose dispatches up to, during, and since the war helped the world feel and understand what was happening in Iraq, finds al-Sadr rather bloodthirsty (so do most of the other bloggers he lists on his blogroll). So, too, do the activists of the fledgling independent Iraqi labor movement, the Iraqi Federation of Workers' Trade Unions (IFTU), whose website recounts the efforts of the government to undermine and stifle it on the one hand, and the threat to it and other truly democratic forces by al-Sadr and others. Says the IFTU: "Fascist type forces and certain islamist fundamentalist are continuing their criminal acts and their violence against ordinary Iraqi civilians, workers and the unemployed. The aim of these anti-democratic forces is to stop the democratic process-taking place now in Iraq."
Creating a broadbased oppositionist American politics requires speaking in an American idiom, not in thoughtlessly knee-jerk tier-mondiste slogans. Instead of inciting the anti-war movement to "Bring Najaf to New York"--which many Americans in the heartland who are uneasy about the occupation of Iraq would interpret as bringing sectarian religious violence to New York--anti-war intellectuals like Naomi ought to join in insisting the movement embrace and support the democratic victims of both al-Sadr and the Alawi government, like the IFTU. We should be encouraging the strengthening of Iraq's fragile civil and secular society and its fledgling institutions, which the al-Sadrs and the other sanguineous fakirs of this benighted country would strangle in their cradle. Just because al-Sadr opposes the U.S. occupation, as we do, is no reason to embrace him indiscriminately, for any enemy of democracy in Iraq, whether a Republican president or an ayatollah, should be our enemy too.
August 27, 2004
Newsweek claims false 'scoop"
Newsweek this week claims a "previously undisclosed" scoop on the Swift Boat controversy supporting Kerry's claims about his wartime exploits. But it turns out that the document Newsweek claims to have discovered was, in fact, unearthed by a FOIA request from my friend David Corn of The Nation. To read how Newsweek stole his work, check out David's blog.
August 26, 2004
a p.s. to the item below
I forgot to say that I always find it idiotic to deny a visa to someone because of their political views. No matter how insidious I find Ramadan, far better to let him be allowed to come, and then to be exposed for what he is.
TARIQ RAMADAN'S VISA
IT'S A PITY THAT NONE OF THE NEWS STORIES ABOUT THE WITHDRAWAL OF TARIQ RAMADAN'S VISA ALLOWING HIM TO COME TO NOTRE DAME TO TEACH DIDN'T GIVE ANY SENSE OF THE ENORMOUS DEBATE ABOUT TARIQ RAMADAN IN FRANCE (NOR, FOR THAT MATTER, DID THE NY TIMES, WHICH GAVE THE STORY ALL OF TWO SENTENCES). IN FRANCE, RAMADAN IS (CREDIBLY) ACCUSED OF USING A DOUBLE LANGUAGE: ONE, MODERATE AND DEMOCRATIC, WHEN HE APPEARS ON TELEVISION (AS HE DOES OFTEN AS THE MEDIA'S FAVORITE BETE NOIRE) ANOTHER-- WHICH IS INCENDIARY, HATE-FILLED, DEMAGOGIC, CRAZILY PURITANICAL AND MISOGYNIST, JEW-BAITING--WHEN HE'S SPEAKING IN ARABIC TO ARABS, PARTICULARLY IN THE GHETTOS OF FRANCE (WHERE HIS AUDIO CASSETTES SELL LIKE PETITS PAINS, AS THE FROGGIES SAY). HOWEVER, IT IS CLEARLY THE SECOND, COUPLED WITH HIS EXTENSIVE TIES TO ISLAMIST GROUPS OF EXTREME VIEWS, WHICH ONE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A GENIUS TO SUPPOSE IS THE REAL REASON BEHIND THIS VISA DENIAL. I'VE HEARD RAMADAN SPEAK MANY TIMES--AND I FIND HIM COMPLETELY INDIGESTIBLE. HE'S A QUITE CLEVER SOD, AND ALL THE MORE DANGEROUS FOR THAT REASON. HE KNOWS HOW TO DANCE ALL OVER THE EGGSHELL WITHOUT EVER BREAKING IT IN HIS TV APPEARANCES. HOWEVER, THE DISCOURSE DOESN'T PASS THE SMELL TEST WITH ANYONE POSSESSING A SHARP NOSE FOR BULLSHIT. HIS ACT IS BRILLIANT, BUT PHONY.--D.I.
August 23, 2004
Red Faces at the WashPost?
Editor & Publisher has been running a terrific series on "How the Washington Post Promoted a War". In the latest installment, E&P editor Greg Mitchell exhumes the Post's coverage of Colin Powell's famous UN speech that laid out the case for war--and the collection of credulous gush from the Post in Mitchell's piece is truly embarassing. Well, some of us weren't fooled at the time--after reading Mitchell's revealing dig into the Post's archive, check out my contemporaneous column on Powell's speech.
August 21, 2004
GAY POL COMES OUT TO ATTACK McGREEVEY
In New Jersey, a Hudson County freeholder is so mad at Jim McGreevey for "using his sexual identity as a shield against the accusations against his administration" that the Freeholder has come out himself specifically to denounce McGreevey and proclaim, "He's not my hero." Ray Velasquez, 40, was elected to the Hudson County Board of Freeholders last November, but his sexual orientation never came up. Now he wants people to know all gay politicians are not like McGreevey, so he gave an interview to his local daily, the Jersey Journal. If you ask me, Velasquez's coming out is a helluva lot more courageous than that of McGreevey, who was forced out of the closet by threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit. For my take on the corrupt governor, see my article, "McGREEVEY'S CLOSET," in the L.A. Weekly.
August 20, 2004
Will a GOP Governor Be Outed?
I've always believed that great caution has to be exercised in the practice of "outing' people as gay. As I have written in The Nation and elsewhere, I always follow what's known as the Barney Frank Rule: as articulated by my friend the Massachusetts Congressman who is gay, it says that outing of a public official is only appropriate if that official has used his power to hurt gay people.
There's a fascinating rumor flying around the web about the anti-gay Republican governor of a major Southern state who certainly would qualify under the Barney Frank rule. This governor has opposed all manner of legislation to protect gays from discrimination, including inclusion of gay people under the protections of a hate crimes law. According to the chatterers on the web, this governor is about to be outed for a same-sex relation with a male student by papers in his divorce proceedings.
The story was first put about earlier this year by Buzzflash, but with no name. Now, in the wake of the McGreevey affair, the name has begun to surface, from gay people in that state. The website Outsports has been the latest on which this governor has been discussed. I don't know whether the rumor is true or not, so I'm not going to name either the governor or the state. But here's a hint: the state has a famous resident whose initials are GWB. If you'd like to know what's being said out there on this story, just click here and follow the links. A major news organization is said in some of these posts to be on the story.
Addendum to Tina Brown/Hiss
The excellent Jeff Kisselhoff, of the Alger Hiss Education and Research Project at NYU, tells me, a propos of Tina Brown's allusion to Hiss:"I've gone back and forth on Chambers'
motives. I don't think he ever made a pass at Alger, although he may
have had feelings for him, but I think there were other things at play
when it came to Chambers' motives," which have also been debated even by friends and supporters of Alger. Jeff offered one of them in the following observation about Tina's article:
"Tina Brown's comments echo the kind of idiotic things that Nixon was
saying. The only thing Alger was trying to cover up was his stepson
Tim's homosexuality. That was the statement which was typical of Alger
in which he said that he would rather go to jail than see Tim smeared
on the witness stand." More evidence that Tina had it wrong, from a chap who knows the Hiss case backwards and forwards (Jeff was a friend of Alger, has spent years working loyally to prove Alger innocent, and has long curated the essential Hiss collection). There is a riveting interview with Alger's nephew, Dr. Tim Hobson, recounting how he was given sodium pentathol as a youth to try to bring back memories of Chambers. It's just one of the raft of fascinating documents, articles and memoirs available on the Hiss Project Website.
In a way, it's a pity Tina was wrong and that Alger WASN'T gay. He was an extraordinarily courageous man, and his membership in my tribe would have honored it.
August 19, 2004
A "Down-Low" Fraud?
Remember the spate of articles on the "down low"--black men having sex with men, but not self-identifying as gay--that appeared in the Washington Post, the Times Magazine, and other major media? Well, the CDC expert whose statistics were used by those publications to buttress their argument that these black men were a sexual danger to others has disavowed those conclusions, which she says her data does not support. Read the interview with her in the latest Gay City News. It's an eye-opener!