Jul 29, 2004

Refuse and Resist!

I wasn't sure of what role I wanted to play in the circus that's coming to town at the end of next month, but reading the article below by Chisun Le, who's work in the Village Voice has been consistently to the point, on point, and point perfect on a bunch of social justice issues, has written a wonderful reminder of what importance public protest and expression of dissent play in this nation. I'm very interested in doing something more than sit at home in front of the PC and write about what's been happening. I hope that we find folks to join during that time.

In other news... tonight I'm celebrating my b-day!! I'm very excited to see good friends and new friends come out. I'll have pics to post, I'm sure - if not here, then at ImageStation.

Protest, Democracy, and the Republican Convention
American Splendor
by Chisun Lee
July 20th, 2004 1:45 PM

Nothing is more American than protest. Protest is what enables this nation, in its angriest moments, to progress, not self-destruct. It converts the despair of minorities into demands, turning the rage against oppression into an impetus for transformation. It makes a nation of individualists come together in struggle against exploitation and injustice. It keeps presidents from becoming monarchs and people from becoming subjects. Protest is the essence of American democracy.

Next month, when the Republican convention comes to New York City, protest will get put to the test. The sitting president will accept his party's nomination to run for re-election to the highest office in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people will join their voices in a united, public cry: Get George W. Bush out.

Democracy doesn't get bigger than this.

Not that anyone would know it at the moment. Somehow the debate over protest at the convention has dwindled to squabbles over lawn upkeep and police efficiency. Officials have masterfully reduced the discussion to the bureaucracy-speak of "negotiation," trapping protest organizers, who are trying to secure people enough space to avoid mass arrests, into the same prosaic terms. Many otherwise politically active New Yorkers are even plotting to skip town, and a whole segment of the population seems to have grown accustomed to e-dissenting from the comfort of home.

Which would be a tragedy: Not in a generation has the need for protest been so great.

Since the last presidential election, the U.S. has lost nearly a thousand young lives in a deeply controversial war with no certain end. Civil rights and civil liberties—won through some of the most pitched protests in the nation's history—are being revised in the name of security. Problems of poverty, education, and health care remain dangerously acute.

The nation is emerging from a period of post-9-11 crisis, ready to declare affirmatively, not just reactively, what it wants to be. The key question is: How much say will ordinary people have in setting the nation's course?

The power of protest is a funny thing to try to describe. You know it when you see it. You only really get it if you've done it. Once you taste it, you never forget it. And you tend to remember your first.

You might have shown up full of fury, ready to defy the police. You might have been nervous, afraid one of those crazy anarchists you'd heard about would set off a pipe bomb. You might have known it would be huge, since it was for a popular cause, but still you were stunned once you got there, awed by the incomparable feeling you never could have imagined that comes from standing together with thousands of strangers in a single rally for a better world.

Or you might have shown up to discover you were just one of a few. You might have felt silly at first, thinking you should never have come. But then you saw the grief in the eyes of the mother whose son was killed by a cop, or the fatigue of the immigrant worker who just couldn't be pushed anymore, or the quiet dignity of a blue-collar crew handing out flyers to save their jobs. And a few people shook your hand and were happy to meet you. And then you were glad you showed up, because you knew for the first time how solidarity feels.

The power of protest is its incredible optimism. Authoritarian types like to paint protesters as outsiders, as antisocial troublemakers who can't live within the lines. But protest is really an almost miraculous expression of faith in the human spirit and in democracy. It is proof that people still believe, despite an abundance of signs to the contrary, that if they just keep trying, the system eventually will work.

It is a miracle of optimism that people protest when a man becomes president without a majority of their votes, rather than storming the halls of government in revolution. It is a miracle of optimism that people protest when they lose loved ones in a war they believe was corruptly conceived, rather than taking up arms themselves. It is a miracle of optimism that people protest when innocent people keep getting killed by the police, or when the friends of the leaders keep getting richer but everyone else stays poor.

It is the miracle of protest that, despite the undemocratic advantages that wealth and connections bestow in this country, the people sometimes win.

If the dispute over the convention demonstrations goes through the courts, it is unlikely that protest will be discussed as the democratic miracle that it is. Judges are not typically populists, and precedents concerning the right to protest are conservative if not outright hostile. The law generally says that, if the authorities offer some kind of arguable Plan B and utter the words "public safety," they win.

That's what happened when United for Peace and Justice—the huge umbrella organization of protest groups currently making news in its negotiations with city officials—sued over the denial of a permit to march against the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. The court opinions spoke of parade formations and contact people and advance notice of numbers of attendees—all areas where organizers evidently fell short. It was impossible to tell that a desperately urgent question of national policy hung in the balance, and that people were bursting to convey a tremendous message of opposition to the commanders in power.

But the wonder of that moment was, the protesters lived by the rules. Instead of marching, hundreds of thousands dutifully jammed into metal pens and dodged police horses in the stationary rally that officials allowed—one that stretched practically the length of Manhattan. These were democrats, not rebels.

The war still happened. President Bush gave the protests on that day, which numbered 6 million participants worldwide, as much consideration as he might have a postcard sent to the White House by a fourth-grader.

That kind of disdain only adds to the fire. Such is the miracle of protest and democracy: Ignored, the people keep coming. They never give up.

Read More......

Jul 23, 2004

If this were a brown man...

...she'd have been shot so full of holes for her little stunt, she would have looked like a picture of Michael Moore at an NRA rally. Give me a break. She tried to get into the cockpit. That's not a security risk? I'm sure that they'll penalize her for it - but can you imagine if a hot-shot business tycoon who's brown decided that he wanted to get off the plane because he didn't trust mother nature... What would have happened? White privilege pisses me off.

July 23, 2004
Fisk president escorted off flight
Airline staff said she became abusive

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Fisk University's new president, Clinton administration Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, was escorted off a flight and questioned by the FBI after she became abusive and tried to get into the cockpit while the plane was delayed on the tarmac, authorities said.

O'Leary said she simply wanted to get off the plane.

Read More......

Jul 22, 2004

Arrested Development

Digital Rotation:
Beatles: Abbey Road

In other news... I saw Arrested Development in a free show that they give last night in Brower Park in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I was there about 5 minutes after 7 PM, and they'd already started (fighting the power and the preconceived notions of C.P.T. all in one svelte move, it seems). It was a great show, actually - much the better since it was so close to home, there weren't millions of people there, it was a mixed crowd, and it was free. The set list was as follows, from when I got there:

1. Teach a Man 2 Fish
2. Dawn of the Dreadz
3. Fishin’ 4 Religion
4. Thank You (For Letting Me Be Myself Again) – Sly & the Family Stone cover
5. Ease My Mind
6. Afrika’s Inside Me/Tennessee
7. JAM
8. Natural
9. Redemption Song - Bob Marley cover
10. Raining Revolution
11. Revolution
12. Music, Life, Dance, Up!
13. Nighttime Demons?
14. Mr. Wendall
15. JAM w/ New Song
16. Song by group Lifesavers
17. Bass Solo (w/ cover of Billie Jean)
18. Mama’s Always on Stage
19. Everyday People

It was a good time, actually, and I'm really glad that I got to go and check it out. I think they just finished restoring Brower Park, and you kinda got the feeling that it would be a nice site for events like this - and that it was a community that could really use a solid public space. There was a good mix of local residents with obvious outsiders; the casual hipster and hip-hop peacenik mingling (could we call it "hipster-hop"?) with the resident community - mainly black, but there were also some latino, asian, and even arab american mothers in the audience.

It has been 14 years for AD as a unit, they went through their own drama and break-ups (would have been great to see dionne farris join in, but some cuts don't heal so quickly, or even at all). I don't think that they bring something incredibly new and exciting to the stage, but it's good to hear songs that you can sing along to, good to feel somewhat connected to others in the great and mixed congregation that music so often convenes in public spaces. And when Speech sang Redemption Song, I could feel a new appreciation for a song that already speaks to me, and I thought about how is so much more music about freedom, liberation, and hope than just the freedom rock of the 60s that I've been thinking about over the past few months.

Read More......


I don't usually bite when it comes to these things, but I played along, and it fits in generally with what I've been feeling about the whole elections and "hunt for the elusive Osama". Think of Saddam's capture as a pilot for a new sit-com... when is the right time, the right context, the right set of conditions for your next feature to be a smash hit? It's a good question... so why don't you check out Osama bin Lotto for yourself, and think about it a bit...

Read More......

Jul 21, 2004

NWA Flight 327: June 29, 2004. What's the buzz all about?

Digital Rotation:
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings OST
The Smiths: The Queen is Dead

I was forwarded this article from the NY Times today today (thanks ACDC), and it made me want to dig a little deeper, since they said that there are a lot of theories online and elsewhere about what "really happened" on this flight. I have my own thoughts on this, but first I'll post up the article, and then I'll write about it. I should have a link in here somewhere to the original piece that's referenced.

New York Times

July 20, 2004
What Really Happened on Flight 327?

There is no doubt that something out of the ordinary happened on Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29. The plane was met at the airport by squads of federal agents and police responding to radio messages from the pilots about concerns that 14 Middle Eastern male passengers had spent the four-hour flight acting suspiciously.

But was the episode a dry run for a terrorist attack, as is now being widely suggested on the Internet and on talk radio, or an aborted terrorist attack? Or was it an innocent sequence of events that some passengers, overcome by anxiety and perhaps ethnic stereotyping, misinterpreted as a plot to blow up their plane?

The story of Flight 327 was first told in a 3,300-word online article, "Terror in the Skies, Again?" by Annie Jacobsen, a 37-year-old freelance writer from Los Angeles. Ms. Jacobsen's report was published last Tuesday on a Web site for women. It is compelling reading.

I have since spoken at length with Ms. Jacobsen, and also with an official of the Federal Air Marshal Service, who confirmed the gist of Ms. Jacobsen's narrative, if not her interpretation.

On June 29, Ms. Jacobsen; her husband, Kevin; and their 41/2-year-old son were returning home from a family visit in Rhode Island when they boarded a connecting flight in Detroit, Northwest 327. While boarding, both she and her husband became aware of a group of six men of Middle Eastern appearance who followed them on board. One wore a large orthopedic shoe. Two carried what appeared to be small musical instrument cases. One wore a yellow T-shirt and was carrying a big McDonald's sack.

As the Jacobsens settled into their seats, they watched a second group of Middle Eastern men board. These men were in communication with the first group "absolutely from the get-go," Ms. Jacobsen said. Furthermore, she said, "they all seemed to be checking in with the guy in the yellow shirt," who was sitting across the aisle from her.

Mr. Jacobsen, 38, who is the president of an import-and-design company as well as an actor in television commercials, was already feeling uneasy. "When I first got on the flight, my instincts said that something was wrong,'' he recalled. "I did turn to my wife and say, 'We must get off this flight.' " He didn't follow through on that, however, because he didn't want to create a commotion based on a whim, he said.

In great detail, Ms. Jacobsen's article describes the "unusual activity" the men engaged in during the flight. Other passengers and the flight attendants became alerted to it, also. Ignoring the "fasten seat belt'' signs, the men went frequently and in succession to the lavatories, and congregated near the galleys in pairs or threesomes. The man in the yellow shirt gave her a "cold, defiant look" when she caught his eye, she said.

About two hours into the flight, with tension building, her husband decided to approach a flight attendant with his suspicions. The flight attendant said the crew were already aware of the odd behavior, including the fact that parcels like the McDonald's bag were carried into the lavatories.

"She said I was 'right on schedule' with what I was feeling was happening, that she was aware of it, that they were passing notes to each other, that the pilots were aware of it, and that there were people on board who are 'higher up than you or me' that were watching them," Mr. Jacobsen said. He presumed, correctly, that this was a reference to undercover federal air marshals.

Later, as the plane was in its final approach to Los Angeles, at the stage of a flight when even the flight attendants are strapped into their seats, "suddenly, seven of the men stood up in unison," Ms. Jacobsen said. Some walked toward the back lavatories and some toward the front. Two stood by the aircraft door. The flight attendants remained silent, she said.

"I don't have any words to explain how terrified I was" at that point, said Mr. Jacobsen, who added that he clutched a pen in his hand to use as a weapon, while thinking: "I hope I'm not the only one who will react. I hope I don't choke and get scared."

Then the plane landed without a problem. Waiting at the door were officers from the Federal Air Marshal Service, the F.B.I., the T.S.A. and the Los Angeles Police Department. The 14 men were questioned at length and released. The Jacobsens also were questioned for over an hour.

Yesterday, a Federal Air Marshal Service spokesman, Dave Adams, a law enforcement officer for 30 years, said that the suspicious characters on Flight 327 were musicians. The man in the yellow shirt was a drummer, he said.

"We interviewed all 14 of these individuals,'' Mr. Adams said. "They were members of a Syrian band" traveling to a gig at a casino near Los Angeles, he said, adding that their names were run through "every possible" data bank and terrorist watch list. "They were scrubbed. Nothing came back."

Mr. Adams said he spoke by phone to Ms. Jacobsen for 90 minutes on Friday night. "This is an individual's perceptions," he said of her account of the flight. "Obviously, since 9/11, everybody's antennas have risen, and people are very concerned when they see something like this." He said that onboard air marshals did not intervene because the men weren't "interfering with the flight crew."

Even so, he said, he had no doubt that "most of the stuff did happen" as Ms. Jacobsen described it.

Aware of recent reports that the F.B.I. is worried that teams of terrorists may be practicing ways to sneak explosive device parts onto planes and assemble them in flight, Mr. Adams said, air marshals aboard Flight 327 "checked out the lavatories, and nothing looked like it was in disarray after these people went inside; everything was thoroughly inspected."

Ms. Jacobsen isn't convinced. No one has disputed any of her facts, she said, and in an article that she posted on the Web site yesterday, she asked why the Syrian band hadn't been identified. (I couldn't locate them, by the way). She wrote of receiving numerous e-mail messages from airline crew members, several of whom said they believed that terrorist-team dry runs had happened on flights. She said that "political correctness" had become a "major roadblock for airline safety."

I asked her about the inevitable charge that ethnic stereotyping was driving her narrative. "I am simply not a racist," she said. "I travel everywhere. I was just in India, working in a Muslim village. I'm not afraid of any culture. This situation was entirely different. I have never been so terrified."

Imad Hamad, the regional director of the Michigan office of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that he knew nothing more about this incident than what Ms. Jacobsen had reported. "I think this level of high anxiety has been implanted in our hearts and minds, and even those who are good people with good intensions cannot help but to look at things in a very suspicious way," he said. "We've got to be vigilant as citizens, but we also have to be calm."

As for the Syrian band, "They gave their little performance in the casino and two days later they flew out on a JetBlue flight from Long Beach to New York," Mr. Adams said.

Read More......

Jul 7, 2004

A Note About Indian Weddings

Amit Bhatia (left) and Vanisha Mittal celebrate at the exchange of rings ceremony during their wedding festivities at Versailles in Paris, June 20

Take a good look at the couple first.
They look reasonably happy.
She's pretty, and he looks like a space cadet.
But hell, that's what my wedding photos look like.

However, click the picture to see the price tag on this one. But hold onto your lunch.

OK, so I've heard about weddings in which the parents go all out - but this is RIDICULOUS. I don't even know what to say to this. I'm completely and utterly speechless. I can't even win that much on Lotto on a good day (meaning that it doesn't go that high that often), and here it is - blow it all on less than a week. *sigh* What an endowment that could have been for the Church of Rage. And the guy looks like he's barely smiling. Is he on CRACK?!


Read More......

Jul 6, 2004

Dem Veep, Posts to come

Digital Rotation:
Chris Poland: Into the Sun
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2: Previn
Sting: The Soul Cages
Holiday: Ready, Steady, Go!

So Kerry chose Edwards. The New York Post was surprised. And D, a lawyer, a Southerner, and perhaps most importantly, as per the calculations of the junior Senator from Massachusetts, a woman... is not excited in the least. I liked Edwards perhaps third of all in the crowded heat of the primaries (which feel so long ago). I'll give a new CD mix to the reader who guesses my first and second choices (come on - it's not that tough!).

So we'll have to see. Meanwhile, I've been shifting back into my new work environment... back in an office that I've been away from for almost 2 years. A lot can change in that much time. I don't foresee myself writing too much about the details here, but it's trippy to be in this space again. I'm just looking forward to taking some time off, which I'm hoping to do at the end of the month/through my birthday (IT'S COMING UP, hint hint)/and into August. D is cooking up something, and I'm perfectly content to let it simmer until she's ready to serve.

Other than that - I have a couple of unfinished posts to work on: the new Cure album (was gonna do a real-time review, which i can still do, since I've only sat down and listened to the first 2 tracks so far), as well as the Annie Lennox/Sting show we went to see last friday.


D is away for a week, and man, I have to say - I really don't miss living alone, and/or being a bachelor. It's not easy to cook for just one, and I'm trying to watch the pennies, so going out isn't as much an option either. Phew! This makes me want to set up some of my single friends, just to relieve them of their misery!

Read More......

Jul 1, 2004

Terror Alert: Watch for evidence of rope-burns, noogie marks, and wedgies...

Digital Rotation:
Sounds of Summer '04: A Brownout Mix (ask really nice, and I'll send you one!)

You MUST be kidding. So now we're profiling under the guise of supposed evidence of terrorist camp hazing? Can you imagine? If someone gets roughed up in the process of being questioned at the airport, that in turn could be cited as adequate reason for suspicion. Are we getting closer and closer to the pre-crime unit portrayed in Spielberg's prophetic Minority Report?

U.S. Customs targeting Pakistanis
Wednesday, June 30, 2004 Posted: 7:27 AM EDT (1127 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bulletin from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection department asks inspectors at the country's major airports to closely examine all passengers of Pakistani descent for injuries that may have been incurred in terrorist training camps, a U.S. official has confirmed to CNN.

A two-page "action" bulletin, dated June 17, says recent intelligence from Pakistan and elsewhere indicates that people of Pakistani descent "are increasingly being identified with" extremist activities, "including supporting [and] protecting the operations of terrorist training camps in Pakistan."

The document says U.S. officials believe "many of the individuals trained in the Pakistani camps are destined to commit illegal activities in the United States."

However, a U.S. official told CNN there is no specific information to suggest such individuals are headed to the United States.

The official also said that the department of Customs and Border Protection does "not target anyone based on race," but it does pay close attention to areas where terrorists are known to operate.

"We can't discuss intelligence operations or information," the official said.

In the bulletin, airport inspectors are advised to closely look at people of Pakistani descent who have taken short trips to Pakistan that were not related to family or business reasons and examine them for injuries like "rope burns ... unusual bruises ... [and] scars," -- injuries that may have come from training in terror camps.

"Officers should look for indications the individual engaged in rappelling activities (rope burns on arms/legs)," the bulletin said.

They should also examine people for "unusual bruises resulting from obstacle course activities."

-- CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve contributed to this

Read More......