This conference takes the position that many people realized, that despite the widespread opposition, that the US would still go to war. Other people, in contrast, felt that because of this unprecedented opposition, that we would stop this war. Accordingly, after the various marches, including the February 15th march, when 8-11.5 million people around the world mobilized against this invasion, the second group of people said that because so many people were in Washington, Boston, San Francisco, London, Madrid and other places, that this administration could not ignore this opposition.

But the US went to war. Many members of the second group were disenheartened. However, we should learn two things from this. One, that this war was and is part of a much larger process that has been ongoing since 1492, and that marches alone will not stop imperialism. We need to understand that this system is over 500 years old and the process of ending this system is a protracted process. Two, IJE believes that peace and anti-war activists need to understand that developing an anti-war movement is difficult, but it is much more difficult to develop an anti-imperialist movement. Accordingly, IJE believes that anti-war and peace activists must prepare for a long, hard struggle. This struggle is Winning the Minds and Hearts of the American People: One Heart at a Time. This conference, Standing Against Empire is part of that protracted effort.

This battle for the minds and hearts of the American people is critical because we are facing one of the most dangerous periods of human history. We face the loss of civil liberties, and the possible development of a militaristic state (Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic) and the possible annihilation of human life (Hegemony or Survival). In addition to these things, today’s struggle is much more difficult because building an anti-imperialist movement requires that Americans, particularly Euro-Americans, look deeply into the history, heart and soul of their country. It requires Americans to confront and acknowledge the genocide against Indigenous peoples, the enslavement and deaths of at least 10 million Africans because of the Atlantic slave trade, and the countless wars that have marked every year of the U.S.’s existence (see “A Most Peace-Loving People” in Ward Churchill’s, in On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. (1) When the American people acknowledge and confront this reality, then we can truly understand that the current wars are only a continuation of this history of empire, and that the American people have the moral and ethical obligation to challenge this war and to end this continuing war against humanity( for a further elaboration of this topic, read “A Government of Laws” in On the Justice of Roosting Chickens).

To help confront the realities of empire and to win this struggle, we need to do a number of things. Among them is to develop a number of educational programs, activities and events, and to organize future marches that patiently win the minds and hearts of the American people. This requires that activists develop a higher level of personal discipline and commitment so that we organize a mass movement. To build this movement, much of our work needs to be based on small groups that meet over a period of at least five to seven weeks to systematically study the history and evolution of the US, and its foreign policy. This way we can patiently explain to Americans the forces that have pushed humanity to a point where we can possibly annihilate all human life on earth. Then these groups can then reach out to other small groups and to public events.

Beginning over a year ago, students at UB and Buffalo State College and activists from the Buffalo community began this process. They also developed a conference, and summer and fall courses, (empire: nation state, capitalist economy and white supremacy). Currently we are organizing our second conference. This conference helps people understand US foreign policy by developing an analysis of US foreign policy and connecting imperialism to the war against people of color in this country. This conference also presents strategies to challenge this continuing global war against humanity. We will also strengthen ties between the anti-war, anti-imperialist, peace movement, Global Justice Movement, and anti-racism movement.

Empire: Haiti, Nigeria, Iraq and the Prison Industrial Complex: Connecting the Struggles

The heart of this conference is that imperialism and racism are an integral part of the US empire. This year we focus on US imperialism in Haiti, Nigeria, Iraq and the prison industrial complex, and show the connections between them. Our students have prepared analyses to assess US foreign policy internationally and domestically and to illustrate how these policies all serve the same purpose of conquest for cheap sources of labor and resources.

Gerald will discuss US foreign policy in Haiti by presenting a historical overview and delineate the history of US foreign policy and then tie it to the current crisis in Haiti. Gerald will point out that because Haiti was the first black republic in the western hemisphere, it was an inspiraton to slaves in the hemsiphere, including the US, and the US tried to crush and isolate it, because the black slave revolt in Haiti was a “contagion”. He will also help us understand the current crisis in Haiti, and what we need to do in response to this crisis.

Nathaniel will analyse US foreign policy in Nigeria. He will document how Nigeria is rapidly assuming more importance. Oil is causing the the Bush adminstration to redefine “U.S. relations with sub-Saharan African states as part of America’s effort to create an informal global empire, resting on energy security, strategic menerals, market fundamentalism and containment of terrorism.” (2)Because of this, and other issues, Africa is becoming a militarized zone that potentially will become explosive (see www.commondreams.org/views03/0906-05.htm The Fourth World War).

Finally, Imtiaz will present a historical and contemporary overview of US foreign policy in Iraq. He will carefully document how the Bush administration planned this war in 2001, and utilized 9-11 to illegally launch a war that threatens to create an escalating series of wars (see www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/2003/bounding/bounding.pdf
Bounding the War on Terrorism and Breaking the Silence) . He will also provide broad guideleines and suggestions on things that the anti-war, anti-imperialist, peace and Global Justice Movement needs to consider.

Afternoon Session

During the afternoon session, Eric begins by analyzing the prison industrial complex from several perspectives. One perspective is the capitalist economic perspective, demonstrating how the prisons are a part of the U.S.’s internal restructuring as it cuts social programs, increases social control over innercities, and people of color increasingly become part of a military that kills other people of color (see Masked racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex, www.colorlines.org. Fall 1998)

Finally, Terry and Elizabeth will present how to devleop an alternative US foreign policy and develop alternatives to the prison industrial complex (Terminating the Bush Juggernaut, www.presentdanger.org/pdf/papers/juggernaut.pdf)

Then, to help people become more familiar with other activists and work in Buffalo, various groups will set up tables to provide further information on particualr topics, such as reparations, the arms race, prison industrial complex, and creating an anti-imperialist movement.

Dinner and Video

After the conference, we will have a dinner that gives us an opportunity to continue meeting with other activists and concerned peoples. Finally we will show a video, Breaking the Silence, where the director, John Pilger, interviews intelligence officers, General Wesley Clark and others to demonstrate how the Bush adminstration lied about ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq so that Bush could convince Americans to support a war allowing U.S. oil companies to control Iraqi oil. John Pilger also shows speeches by both Colin Powell and Condeleca Rice who stated that Iraq was not a threat to US security.

Registration

We are registering people for this conference. To register and purchase tickets, you can contact Khalil at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tickets are $5.00 for college students, and $10.00 for faculty community people.

Summer 2004

This summer we will offer our third session of empire: nation state, capitalist economy and white supremacy at the Langston Hughes Institute, 25 High Street, Buffalo, 882-3266.

This course will be eleven weeks long. We will begin on Wednesday, May 15 at 6:00. To register contact khalil.

Endnotes

1. Available in UB Library Course reserve under Instructor, Nieves)
2. Yohannes, Okbazghi, “America’s New Frontier: Oil in the Gulf of Guinea”, The Black Scholar, Volume 33, No. 2, p-2








People marched to the central location of Madison Ave. and 24th Street where a small stage for speakers was assembled. Among the speakers were Dennis Kucinich, and Amy Goodman. There were loud speakers set up the 40 block length of the march but often the music and drumming of the crowd drowned out the voices. Estimates on the size of the crowd were 125,000 through 200,000.

The most advantageous thing of our movement is that the people have abounding creativity. In a struggle against a systematic world the people will always overcome because the entropy of out creative power has the ability to seep into every crack of their system.

There was a large police presence in NYC but i saw not one person get arrested or harrassed. Seeing as Miami FTAA was the last protest i had attended it was quite a relief. One helicopter compared to 5, no riotgear, tear gas, or rubber bullets really helps your stress level out.

The walls are coming down. Once in a while you can even see it happen. This is an amazingly empowering and essential thing for my life and work.

Cheers to everyone who attended, NYC and Buffalo!

Support for the frontrunner was a foregone conclusion. Skeptics of a Democratic Party resurgence in Western New York have good reasons not to believe the hype. After all, Republican Joel Giambra was easily re-elected last fall, despite the fraud and corruption scandal at the county's Aurora garage. The editorial staff of The Buffalo News continues to support the Republican initiatives of Gov. George Pataki despite paying lip service to the Democrats in the form of an endorsement of Kerry for president. Perhaps the greatest cause for despair is the fact that the Republican-inspired Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority is poised to do what public authorities have done so effectively in New York State since the days of Robert Moses, namely, to appoint itself as immortal and intercept all of the money and power coming into the city, for its own ends. The “control board” is not accountable to voters and, as such, will be free to prosecute the vicious anti-union campaigns laid out by M&T Bank Chairman Bob Wilmers until the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, the Police Benevolent Association, and the Buffalo Teachers Federation are as much a part of Buffalo's past as the Erie Canal.

Destroying the City of Buffalo's public employee unions is clearly job No. 1 for Oberburgermeister Wilmers and his crew. This strategy will probably not bring back the vast amounts of capital squandered in Buffalo's savings & loan crisis in the eighties or the money squandered through HUD in the eighties and nineties or the millions of dollars wasted by Western New York's balkanized and inept economic development agencies in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. It will keep the local Democratic Party pregnant and barefoot, so to speak.

“Preach all of the old time religion you want,” Republicans seem to be saying to Democrats, “but remember the check book is in our back pocket.”

The Hobbit and The Return of The King

With so much damage already done, and with such powerful forces arrayed against it locally, can there be any hope for the local Democratic Party?

As the extremism of George Bush became clear nationally and as Joel began his campaign to hire as many relatives as possible locally, the tattered Democratic Party aligned behind a man who, if only a couple inches shorter, would resemble a hobbit. Len Lenihan was chosen as a peacemaker and healer, not because of his charisma.

Under his quiet leadership, however, some significant steps have been taken. When Judge Robert Whalen went his own way, Lenihan succeeded in pulling the party's endorsement, proving that he was intent on re-establishing Party discipline. Despite going down to defeat in the race for county executive, Democratic candidate Dan Ward made a surprisingly strong showing. Despite being outspent by a ten to one margin by Giambra cronies, Ward made the race much closer than it should have been. Furthermore, Ward was able to pinpoint several chinks in Giambra's armor, which over the course of Giambra's next term, are bound to become glaring weaknesses. From the aforementioned Aurora garage scandal, to Giambra's faux regionalism, to the under funding of Medicare and ECMC, Ward was able to mount a campaign that will continue to resonate with voters.

Also, the party was able to reestablish control of the Erie County Legislature. The tide of defections in the party's ranks seems to have been stemmed, but the man who should deserve credit for that, Lenihan, has not grabbed the spotlight. Instead, he is continuing his efforts to “herds the cats.”

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Kerry's rally under this new big top tent of the Democratic Party was the absence of Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello. Read into this what you will, but keep in mind that one of the introductory speakers was New York State Senator Byron Brown.

Brown, of course, has made no secret of his plans to run for mayor, with the support of former Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon and Pigeon's brand new power coalition centered on former Independence Party candidate for Governor, B. Thomas Golisano. By attaching himself to the new billionaire owner of the Buffalo Sabres, Pigeon has executed a highly improbable comeback. Virtually run out of town by The Buffalo News, Pigeon has returned. Because of his lack of direct affiliation and his behind-the-scenes profile, he's probably just as powerful as ever. It just goes to show that the old political maxim still holds true: if you're going to kill the king, make sure that you kill the king. What's It All About, Ralphie?

As the Democratic Party strives to unite the divisions that led to defeat in the election of 2000, the ghost of Ralph Nader hovers over the proceedings. In taking mostly predicable and scripted questions from the floor in his appearance here, John Kerry addressed Nader's decision to throw his hat in the ring once again. He stated that the party would need to reach out to its progressive elements and he stressed his concern about jobs, fat cat corporations, and the ill effects of free trade. Interestingly, the ovation that followed his reply was among the weakest of the evening. What does that say about the party regulars?

Can the Democratic Party energize the base of young voters who supported Nader in the 2000 election? Can they bring in new blood who will redirect their anger at George W. Bush toward the local Republican power base that keeps major Bush aide-de-camp Rep. Tom Reynolds in Washington?

The jury is still out, but local Democrats believe that they have the right stuff to make 2004 the year of the “big payback.”

Four individuals were asked a series of questions about young people and their involvement in politics. The questions were: 1. Do you think that young people are more interested in the presidential election this year? 2. Do you think that young people have created resurgence in the Democratic Party? 3. What do you see as an outcome for the election because of young people?

Name: Charles Fiegl Age: 23 Location: Williamsville Occupation: reporter

1. I think that there are issues every year that young voters are interested in, such as health care and jobs, especially when coming out of school. This year, younger people may be more interested in it because the economy is not as good as it’s been in the mid- to late-’90s even though it’s showing some signs of recovery. There are some people upset with the current president’s decisions on the war and etc., but then there is the other side that feels safer than they did after Sept. 11 with the programs that the administration has been responsible for. I think that, with any presidential election, you’ll see more voters at the polls than during smaller elections.

2. I don’t know. I think that there are a lot of young people in America who don’t exercise their right to vote, and it is discouraging. Younger people should vote more often and come out in droves this election.

3. Who knows? Some people get turned off by campaign ads and constant bickering and won’t care to vote for either of the party candidates. Voter apathy. I’m sure that some people will vote for Nader even though he’s running as an independent, and it’s not guaranteed that he’ll be on every ballot in every state unless he gets signatures, which requires a lot of money. Who knows if his impact will be as big?

Name: Kenny Kwarciany Age: 21 Location: Buffalo Occupation: full-time student

1. Yeah. Everyone is sick of Bush and will do anything to get rid of him.

2. Yeah. Refer to question no. 1.

3. I think that more young people will vote. Whoever I have talk to is going to vote, but I hate Kerry, and we’re screwed, no matter what. No comment on Ralph Nader.

Name: Jeffrey Bettinger Age: 26 Location: University Heights Occupation: student

1. Yes, but not enough. Because when you try to strike up a conversation with a random stranger, they have an opinion, unlike in years past, but they’re not doing anything about it. There’s not enough activism. They’re not watching news and not reading enough because television is too biased. Eighty-five percent of the news comes from too few sources, promoting corporations, globalization, and tax cuts.

2. No. I think that young people might lean toward the left but that doesn’t make them a Democrat. The Democratic Party is by no means the radical party that it was years ago. It’s almost the same as the Republican Party.

3. Minimal impact. A lot of people are still frustrated and have already decided who’s going to win, and they feel that their vote is meaningless. It’s good in theory but difficult in practice; it’s good to promote change, but people tend to slack off. And Ralph Nader — unfortunately he doesn’t have the means to reach as many people. He’s the only consistent politician, a consumer advocate, not a part of the corporations masquerading as human beings.

Name: Tim LaChuisa Age: 22 Location: Amherst Occupation: full-time student

1. I would like to think that they are more interested in it this year, but I think realistically. I think that it is probably pretty comparable to the last election (pretty low interest).

2. No, I just generally don't see young people's attitudes changing into being more political or interested in politics.

3. I think that if young people actually got out and voted, it can have a huge impact in the election. Looking at the last election, for example, if more young people got out and voted, we would probably have a different president today. So they do have the possibility of being a large impact in any election, but the problem is somehow motivating young people to vote.

Name: Kevin Hibbard Age: 23 Location: West Seneca Occupation: art teacher

1. Yes, because people realize what a difference having the right president makes. They’re concerned about Bush being in office or not.

2. No. I think that young people aren’t as active as they should be in politics.

3. I would see more support for the Democratic candidate, but I’m uncertain of victory. I don’t think that Nader will be a factor this year. Enough people learned how much it affected it. I’m hoping that Kerry will win, but I’m not really certain. It all depends how things play out with the rumors of Bin Laden’s capture. That may sway a lot of people.

On Monday, February 2, the presidential candidate took a half-hour out his busy day campaigning in Arizona to talk shop and answer some questions about the campaign, the war on Iraq, and his own, admittedly leftist policies.

Q: What do you feel is the central issue of the presidential race?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: I think it’s going to end up being about Iraq. We’re at a crisis in democracy; this country was dragged into a war based on lies. All of my [primary] opponents, except Reverend Sharpton, agreed at some level, at some point, that going to war against Iraq was acceptable. They’ve bought into the lies.

And now the administration is agreeing to seek an investigation? That’s unconscionable. I can’t think of anything that more fully describes the pathetic state of this administration. They created fictions about weapons of mass destruction; they created fictions about Iraq having something to do with September 11. This administration did everything they could to make people believe Iraq was on the verge of attacking us, all to give their friends and contributors access to oil and to privatize the Iraqi economy for their benefit.

Q: Don’t we need an in dependent investigation?

Kucinich: I would say that we don’t need an investigation. W already know the facts. This administration lied, they lied to Congress, they lied to the press, they lied to the world, and they lied to the American people. They’re trying to obscure the issue by calling for an investigation during the presidential campaign. They’ll bury the truth.

The worst thing is that very few Democrats are in a position to challenge Bush on this war. Senator John Kerry, Senator John Edwards, and Senator Joseph Lieberman all helped to defile the Constitution and Bill of Rights by voting in favor of the war. General Wesley Clark’s been all over the place on this issue, even Governor Howard Dean failed to be consistent. They all supported the war and the president can say that to nearly any other Democratic candidate.

Q: If this were not an election year, do you feel there are grounds for impeachment hearings?

Kucinich: Well, this is an election year. At this point, with the election coming up, an impeachment would be a way for the administration to, paradoxically, get away with it. Hearings would rag out the issue, deflect attention from campaigns, and allow Bush to us his “are you with us or against us rhetoric.”

Q: What about the missing weapons of mass destruction?

Kucinich: They’re not missing; they haven’t been there for years. Listen, there are many candidates in this race; Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, Clark, Dean, who all said at one time or another that they believed there were weapons of mass destruction. And now, all of them, except Sharpton, have made comments supporting the continued occupation of Iraq.

I cannot think of a time in our history when so many leaders have misled the public for such wrong reasons.

Q: During the last primary debate in South Carolina, moderator Tom Brokaw misstated your position on Iraq, saying that you would pull the United States and tell the U.N. to take over. How can you counteract that and similar over-simplifications of your platform proposals?

Kucinich: First of all, we have to acknowledge that the world has a responsibility to stabilize Iraq. But the United States has the first responsibility. Our leaders led us in there, and we cannot just throw up our hands and walk away.

That responsibility means that we cannot maintain an indefinite occupation, and we can’t run Iraq through remote control by imposing the government that we want on the Iraqi people. They must be allowed to choose for themselves.

But, it goes even beyond that. The United States has no right to privatize the Iraqi economy, has no right to allow sweetheart Halliburton deals, has no right to take Iraqi resources for our own profit. We have to go to the U.N. and work out a way to stabilize the country, give them control of their resources.

Then we have to start abiding by the Geneva and Hague conventions; war cannot be about profiteering. The only reason that our troops would need to be there for any number of years is for some private investors to make a profit. That’s just wrong.

Q: Speaking of profiteering, how much revenue can be expected from closing corporate tax loopholes and ending the use of off-shore tax shelters?

Kucinich: A lot. The current tax system is skewed toward the wealthy. They also happen to give a lot of money to the politicians that make the tax laws. What these loopholes and shelters are is a demonstration that the administration has reworked the tax code to support the wealthy. Instead of providing a safety net, we prop up those who are already rich.

My plan shows we can rework the tax code to help those who aren’t already wealthy, and that is what will help the economy get moving again.

Q: What issue, or issues, are being ignored during this primary season?

Kucinich: The major domestic issue, once we sort out the impact of war on the domestic economy, is health care. The current system is out of control; 43 million people have no access to health care, outside of an emergency system short on resources.

Q: What is the difference between your vision of universal health care and other candidates who call for universal health insurance?

Kucinich: I’m calling for a universal, not-for-profit system under Medicare. We need medicine and health care for all with a single payer system. Sixteen trillion dollars exists for health services between the government and private sector, that’s about 15 percent of the gross domestic product. That amount would be more than sufficient for all of our health care needs, all of our dental needs, and all of our alternative medicine needs.

What my opponents want is to keep the current for-profit system, with all its executive salaries, insurers, promotions, and advertising. But the system’s broken. All of these health insurance companies exist to do is capitalize off the misery of people who are ill.

Q: You’ve said that the war on drugs is a failure and that drug abuse should be dealt with in the health care system rather than in the prison system. Is that a practical stance, and how much can we save by reforming this nation's drug policy?

Kucinich: The problem with the current system is that all the emphasis is on criminalization and incarceration. We waste so much time and resources in our society beating up on people for drug problems when what they need, what’s been proven to work, is treatment and understanding; they don’t need to be demonized. This country really needs a more enlightened policy toward drugs in general.

Q: Would you abolish the Drug Czar position?

Kucinich: I don’t think there should be czars in a democracy. By changing our policy, we can save billions of dollars and millions of lives.

Q: While we’re talking about crime, what do you propose we do about corporate and white collar crime?

Kucinich: Corporations ought to be treated as people. If they want the same rights as people, they should face the same penalties when they violate the law. If a person breaks the law while driving, we take away their keys. We ought to be able to take away a corporation’s keys if it breaks the law.

Let me explain. First, I would establish federal corporate charters. If a company breaks the law; if it violate anti-trust laws, if it commits human or worker’s rights violations, if it manipulate the stock market, if it engages in any such behavior, then it loses its right to operate in this country. And it should have to make restitution.

Q: Does our criminal justice system treat white collar criminals too easily?

Kucinich: First off, white collar criminals should have to forfeit all their gains. I’m not opposed to their doing time, but I think that restitution is critical. There should be community service and restitution.

Q: Are you too soft on crime?

Kucinich: We have to be firm with crime but not hard-headed. We need appropriate penalties; the criminal justice system needs to include incarceration, restitution, and rehabilitation. Too often, we stop at incarceration, and that hasn’t solved the problem yet.

I believe, if you murder someone, you should be put in jail for life with no possibility of parole. But the death penalty? That’s fuzzy-headed thinking, especially if you think that it will deter crime. Studies show that it doesn’t, and studies show that it’s applied unfairly to minorities and the poor.

The important thing is to try to understand the causes of crime. Unless you do an analysis of those people committing crimes, you don’t get a sense of what crime is about. Our whole criminal justice system needs another look, a frank and honest look at what justice means.

Q: Most of the people in our prisons come from impoverished communities. How does your proposal to loosen welfare limits figure into this?

Kucinich: We need a more equitable distribution of wealth. We need incentives for creativity; that’s how you formulate wealth. I’d abolish welfare limits for those seeking higher education and job training; that will bring them out of poverty and create more productive, contributing members of society.

Q: Won’t your proposals strain the economy?

Kucinich: We’re putting people in impossible situations. We tell a single mother to work, but we won’t provide child care or education for her preschooler. And we take away her benefits because she isn’t following the rules; then we say it’s a budgeting problem. Please.

How much is enough when a corporate executive is making tens or hundreds of millions of dollars? We need a living wage; we need a fully paid-for, not-for-profit health care. We need some equity.

Q: Do you really think that these proposals can make it through Congress?

Kucinich: When people are aware they can’t afford health care and education, that they can’t support their children, then they start to make those connections. And when they make those connections, well, then we’ve got a movement. I think that those connections are being made; that’s what this campaign is based on. I’m not a messiah to the poor or working class. I come from the poor and working class.

Q: Had you at any time during this campaign considered approaching Reverend Sharpton and Carol Mosely-Braun to form an alliance and strengthen the progressive wing?

Kucinich: No. Sharpton and I talk constantly about matters of mutual concern. We’ve talked a lot, but not about that. There is a new progressive movement afoot in this whole country, and we have, ironically, Bush to thank. I don’t think that there’s anything more significant than this war itself.

Q: Assuming you do not get the Democratic nomination, would you consider running as an independent or a Green?

Kucinich: I consider myself a Green Democrat, and I’m working to create a viable, progressive Democratic party. That’s why I’m in this race, and that’s why we’ll go into the convention and keep up the fight to give control of Iraq to the Iraqis, to get universal health care, to get more people employed, and to provide people with a living wage.

A press release dated Feb. 24 made the group's previously ambiguous position on “Casino Buffalo” clear. “The Buffalo Niagara Partnership will not falter in its opposition to a Seneca casino in downtown Buffalo."

Joel Rose, chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County, praised the Partnership's stand in an e-mail.

“How many times have we asked, rhetorically, where is the leadership from the business community on the casino issue? Well, better late than never. This is a very welcome development,” Rose said.

The Partnership, which the Buffalo Club's elite Group of Eighteen dominates, also cast doubts on whether a suburban site for the casino would be in the best interests of the local business community. It stated, “Some alternative sites in Erie County have been mentioned for the Seneca casino, but at first blush, these also fail to meet the necessary criteria for Partnership support, including their inability to attract out-of-town dollars to the region, or [to] serve as a springboard for other development."

The press release did leave the door open by adding that, “We will, however, give any site additional review should a specific plan for it emerge.”

Assemblymember Sam Hoyt, a long-time foe of casino gambling in Buffalo, also praised the Partnership's decision. The press release that his office issued pointed to potential problems if the Senecas succeed in locating a new casino here.

He pointed out that the Seneca gaming compact, "...only requires the Senecas to pay the state a percentage of profits from slot machines and video lottery terminals, but only as long as they have an exclusive franchise on those devices. If they are half as good business people come May when VLTs open at Buffalo Raceway, as they have been all along, I expect a Buffalo casino to open with VLTs. If so, the Senecas can avoid any revenue sharing at all."

This fact raises serious questions about Mayor Anthony Masiello's motivations for pursuing a Seneca casino in Buffalo. The mayor, who appeared on a radio call-in show on WBEN, stumbled when one caller asked him to defend the Seneca Tribal Council's links to organized crime. He said that he didn't want to judge the whole group based on a couple of individuals, despite the fact that Arthur “Sugar” Montour, who has publicly acknowledged his criminal past on Canadian national television, was in charge of negotiating the Seneca Gaming Compact with Governor George Pataki.

Despite mounting opposition to casinos as a panacea to both state budget deficits and anemic economic development, Pataki continued his push to amend the state constitution to allow for the legalization of state-sponsored casinos. Many Senecas who were opposed to the Seneca Gaming Compact with Pataki now see this as the ultimate proof of the governor's betrayal and of the Seneca Tribal Council's self-serving ends.

In addition to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, casino opponents acquired another powerful ally as the state's conference of Roman Catholic Bishops also came out against the governor's proposed gambling amendment.

Despite mounting opposition to his “Casinos for Kids” scheme to fund public education in New York State, the governor and his ally in the New York State Senate, Joe Bruno, show no signs of abandoning their proposal. As the Republican National Convention comes to New York City, along with big money and political clout backing the governor, casino opponents and advocates alike can expect a casino showdown – winner take all.

In her second CD, Peel Me A Grape, Levy Daniels sings about love found, love lost, and dreams of romance. She wishes upon a moon, wondering if she's crossed the line between love and fascination.

Levy Daniels said that she has spent her life experiencing both love and fascination. Her love for music started when she was a child and she and her father had daily jam sessions. "My dad played the piano and we would improvise. The whole fun of it was to take a song and put in as many twists as you could possibly come up with," she said. At the age of 12, she began recording for ABC Paramount Records under the name of Barbara Lyons. "I also recorded a children's album. I loved it. I always had music in my heart."

Barbara Levy Daniels said that she experienced love and fascination when at the age of fourteen. "When my husband met me, I was really young. He saw me lip synching 'Leo My Love' (at the Jewish Community Center). It was one of the first 45s that I made. At that time, that's how you promoted your records. You went around to record hops, and you lip synched. He loved jazz. We had that in common right from the start." Her father purchased a drum set so that Barbara's boyfriend would be able to participate in family jam sessions. Barbara Levy married Errol Daniels at the age of 19.

The romance is as strong as ever after forty-two years, she said.

But a professional career as a jazz singer was put on hold for many years. Levy Daniels had a brief career as a secretary. Then she and her husband had a son in 1972. Afterward, she went back to school and became a special education teacher. She had one of the first resource rooms for autistic children, where she used music as a teaching tool. "The meter of music is helpful for certain children who don't relate well with people."

After teaching for a while, Levy Daniels decided that she needed additional training to counsel families. She went back to school and earned a master's degree in social work. She now has a private practice in Williamsville, and her clients are mainly couples. "I see different variations of couples. I see married couples, unmarried couples, same-sex couples, young, old, you name it," she said. She explained that her job is to facilitate the healing of their relationships. "You need a mentally healthy mentor. People come to my office with all sort of strengths. My goal is to get them to realize it, not to tell them where to go, what to do."

Following her heart and taking risks have paid off, said Levy Daniels. A late bloomer, she followed her own path, she said, adding that, for her, life began at fifty. Going into private practice after finishing graduate school was a risk. Her return to performing in 1998 was a risk. "You get confident with the more risks that you take. The higher they are, the better you feel about yourself," she said.

To guide her path back into music, Levy Daniels found mentors in the jazz world. She studied at Dr. Billy Taylor's Jazz in July program at the University of Massachusetts. Her mentor was Sheila Jordan, who helped her develop her skills in phrasing and improvisation. She said her study helped her build confidence so that she could perform.

"I'm in charge of the rhythm up there, and if I change, then it changes. It takes a long time to learn jazz. I think that you have to be very secure in your vocal techniques," Levy Daniels explained.

Levy Daniels has traveled, both in the United States and abroad, and she has performed with a variety of musicians. They tend to be fascinating people, she said. She talked about a Cuban musician who has performed in the United States several times. "Some of the members of the Buena Vista Social Club came here. One of them, an older man sat in our car. He is amazing. He's always smoking a cigar. It's not always lit, but it's there. He really likes his Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream. He's such a sweetie, a character. He speaks no English, but I played for him my first CD (They're Writing Songs of Love). I can't remember what he said. He just kept blowing a kiss into the air."

Levy Daniels plans to plans to appear at a variety of summertime jazz festivals. She's also looking take her act on the road. She said that she might even try composing. And she's thinking about making another CD.

She encourages people to follow their hearts, foolish or otherwise. She sings about doing just that on her CD. And she said, "Sometimes people think that they can't do something because they didn't do it at the right time. I'm having a ball. Go for it! Life is to be lived and supplemented by working."

Intrusive and provocative policing methods, often recommended by outside agencies such as the DEA, in some cases sowed deep seeds of resentment in target neighborhoods, while mass arrests may have had the unintended consequence of igniting turf wars left in their wake.

Since our last issue, violent crime has continued its resurgence in the Queen City, with stories of a woman being slashed repeatedly in an argument over $200 and a police officer coming under attack after pulling over a stolen vehicle. There are many theories about why violent crime rates tend to soar on occasion, but massive riots are different in that their underlying causes can often be attributed to specific policies of provocation in the face of deteriorating social conditions.

In a community that is one of the most racially divided in the nation, it is important to look at the successes and failures in the recent past to try to better understand how to cope with the domestic and drug-related violence that can become an epidemic in a culture of poverty and also to try to implement policies that will help avoid the man-made disaster of rioting. Community Policing Under Masiello

In the late nineties, Mayor Anthony Masiello and Police Chief Rocco Diina credited themselves with bringing about a reduction in violent crimes in the City of Buffalo. Buffalo's own crack epidemic had receded from its peak in the early nineties. These declines, however, mirrored nation-wide trends. Experts have theories about why this trend took place, but most agree that there is no simple reason for the decline.

Gil Kerlikowske, Diina's predecessor, had set lofty goals of modernizing the Buffalo Police Department and for improving relations between Buffalo's diverse communities and the BPD. To the surprise of nearly everyone, Kerlikowske's progressive agenda attracted national attention. In response to the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and the charges of police brutality during the event, the highly regarded Kerlikowske was offered and accepted the job of police chief in an effort to heal that city's rifts.

In a 1996 interview with Alt, Kerlikowske discussed an assessment of the Buffalo Police. “It had a 1960s mentality, the professional model of policing. It’s a very narrow range in which we only enforce the law, and we will tell people what is best for them. We know that style is not effective.”

When asked about the impact of drug laws on civil liberties and the breakdown of neighborhoods, Kerlikowske said, “I think it is a big mistake for police commissioners to get involved in the setting of laws… a lot of police chiefs say that drugs are not just a crime and justice problem but are also a social problem, a public health problem, and I agree. You can’t separate poverty, lack of jobs, boarded-up housing, and social justice from crime and drugs.”

From Reform to RJD

Rocco Diina, a political crony of Masiello, brought a different executive style to the table. Diina came into the job of Buffalo's top cop after a controversial political campaign for Erie County sheriff, where the potential conflict of interest between his private security firm and his role as sheriff contributed to his defeat. At the top of his agenda on his new job was an attack on the Police Benevolent Association, the union for Buffalo's police officers.

Diina created more controversy when he effectively had Channel 2 news anchor Rich Kellman censured for asking questions about his relationship with the rank and file Buffalo cops. This was followed by an FBI sting of the Buffalo Police Narcotics Squad. Many police officers blamed lax oversight of the narcotics squad by Diina as a contributing factor in the scandal, which eventually resulted in Buffalo cop Jonathan Parker being sentenced.

RJD, Diina's private security firm (which is now run by his brother), took over security at the Buffalo Convention Center, bringing up the same ethical concerns that dogged Diina in the race for Erie County Sheriff. Diina’s participation in a real estate deal with Theatre Place Associates that took in millions of dollars in HUD money and was then “flipped” did nothing to dispel concerns over Buffalo’s top cop.

From Weed & Seed to Operation Clean Sweep

Just prior to Diina's arrival, the Buffalo Police began engaging in a federal program intended to aggressively go after drug offenders, while simultaneously strengthening relations with community leaders in troubled neighborhoods. Somewhere along the way, the “Weed and Seed” program veered away from a policy of community vigilance and engagement toward what many saw as a policy of intimidation.

The advent of the “Clean Sweep” program departed significantly from Kerlikowske's positive strategy of community involvement. The program was touted as a “quality of life” assistance program. Under the program, a vast array of law enforcement officials from the federal, state, and local levels went door to door in some of the city’s troubled neighborhoods, asking homeowners and tenants for entry into homes to check on their safety. Officials from utility and cable companies accompanied them to scout for illegal service and warn of late payments.

The appearance of the posse was reassuring to some but menacing to others, particularly those on the west side, who were unsure of their right to refuse the group entry into their homes. Less publicized was the involvement of the DEA. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a freedom of information request, seeking to obtain copies of videotapes taken from the Maryland, West, and Nineteenth Street Clean Sweeps. They were informed that, “The Drug Enforcement Agency objects to the release of these video recordings and/or pictures, as this could seriously jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations…”

Reacting to Increased Violence With Strong Arm Tactics Clean Sweep represented a mild provocation compared to “Operation Hammer” in Los Angeles. The involvement of outside law enforcement agencies in Buffalo’s drug war has become a trend and it’s becoming clear that Diina is in favor of the more aggressive tactics that these outsiders employ.

After an increase in violent crime last year, the response was a “Violent Crimes Task Force,” bringing in New York State troopers and federal agents, including the DEA, to augment the Buffalo Police Department. Diina told The Buffalo News that the effort was designed to “perform as many drug busts and search warrants as possible,” and also "to focus on confiscating illegal firearms and taking drug dealers and gang members off the streets.”

Diina also called for an increase in Clean Sweeps, despite criticisms over its intrusiveness and overall effectiveness in combating crime.

No one would say that gang violence, particularly black on black violence, is a problem that should not be addressed. But draconian drug war strategies that have been carried out in other racially divided communities have often had unintended consequences, as we have seen in the cases of Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Benton Harbor.

Many residents and homeowners in afflicted neighborhoods applaud police crackdowns, and high profile drug busts on the television news make many residents feel safer. Unfortunately, underground economies ????????????????

While it’s doubtful as to whether the rank and file of the Buffalo Police Department share their chief’s enthusiasm for pushing the envelope in the war on drugs, if the Violent Crimes Task Force pushes too far, the Buffalo cops, not their police chief, will be the ones to inherit the blame.

That's because they are busy turning state's evidence against the Rigases.

Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far is that the family members have not made a concerted effort to blame Deloitte & Touche and the rest of the board for their own “co-borrowing.” Nor have they turned the spotlight on their corrupt investment banker/cheerleaders or the rest of the rather shady cable industry. If this proves anything, it's that, no matter what, the “Deal Club” must be preserved at all costs.

Predictably, The Buffalo News has stuck by its sympathetic treatment of John Rigas in its coverage. Don't expect them to write anything that will tarnish the image of their Republican bigwig favorite Erland “Erkie” Kailbourne, either. As the rest of the board members say their obligatory mea culpas, prosecutors will focus on getting as many convictions in the inner circle as possible.

The defense thus far has been worth the price of admission. In cross-examining one witness who was brought up to represent defrauded shareholders, lawyers established that the gentleman on the stand had engaged in day trading. The line of reasoning presented to the jury, then, went something like this: since there are so many day traders out there and because mutual funds are diverse, maybe there weren't enough actual shareholders in Adelphia to really worry about. In a way maybe everyone who holds stocks shares a little bit of guilt with the Rigases for paying to much attention to the short term, pumped-up bottom line, the concept of communal guilt writ large, to be sure.

The Rigases, in this view, are the real victims, just like Mel Gibson and the rest of the extreme religious right are the real victims of the vast liberal media conspiracy masterminded by The New York Times and Alt. The Rigases and “The Origins of The Crash.”

Roger Lowenstein’s cover story on the Rigases and the Adelphia fiasco titled “The Company They Kept” in the Feb. 1 edition of The New York Times Magazine was notable on several accounts. First and foremost, it was an excellent plug for Origins of The Crash, his new book, of course. In terms of the Adelphia meltdown, it’s the first analysis we’ve seen that attempts to touches upon the culture that the Rigases created, and get beyond the good Rigas (the old man, John) bad Rigas (his son, Tim), treatment that we’ve seen enough of in The Buffalo News.

It’s also the first article that has focused on the involvement of local hero Erland “Erkie” Kailbourne, former Fleet Bank chairman and “Business Backs the Bills” quarterback. As head of the audit committee of Adelphia, Kailbourne should have known about the co-borrowing agreement that the Rigas family created with its company. Indeed, it was under his watch that the company released a financial statement relegating more than two billion dollars in outstanding family loans to a footnote.

Lowenstein also scrutinized other “outside” directors, such as Pete Metros, who, as family friends, acted more as rubber stampers than as investor watchdogs. While resisting trite Greek tragedy clichés, the author lays at least part of the blame squarely at the feet of stock analysts, who at best could not see the forest for the trees and at worst got sucked into the excitement of the little company’s big time financial leveraging and ignored their ethical responsibilities to the investor.

Despite these strengths, Lowenstein missed a few points that were reported in Alt at the time of the company’s collapse and should be included in any serious discussion of the company.

While executives at scandal-ridden companies such as Enron were seemingly able to buy their way out of criminal prosecution through massive political campaign contributions, the Rigases were supposed to be an easier target for lack of political juice. This view ignores that the fact that the Rigases did have juice of a slightly different flavor.

In addition to Kailbourne, the company enjoyed the support of Bob Wilmers, CEO of M&T Bank, who made a public appearance with Tim Rigas touting the company’s bright future. Gushingly obsequious articles in The Buffalo News, whose chairman is Warren Buffett, probably didn’t encourage skepticism from those who were paying attention. One month prior to the company’s now infamous conference call with Oren Cohen of Merrill Lynch which exposed the Rigases borrowing scheme, Governor George Pataki and a retinue of local politicians actually celebrated the company’s “deleveraging” with an event on the site of it future corporate headquarters which was to be built a stone’s throw from The Buffalo News building. The front page ovations continued in that publication. While Lowenstein noted the extravagance of the company’s indirect funding of Ellen Rigas’ motion picture, he didn’t mention that her husband Peter Venetis was another “outside” board member who had come up through the ranks of Solomon Smith Barney on the investment bank side.

With a mix of Wall Street insiders and the apparent support of the folksy outsider Warren Buffett, it’s easy to see why the Rigases felt that they could bluff their way through what they deemed a short-term cash crunch. As long as analysts such as Jack Grubman were around to keep bidding up the valuation of each subscriber in the industry, solvency was just another stock offering away.

In the midst of the scandal, Pataki reappointed Erkie Kailbourne to the New York State Banking Board, which oversees approximately two trillion dollars in assets. This was a significant show of public, political support that may have helped to draw the last round of suckers to the table as the stock briefly rebounded After the Enron effect set in and the fate of the Rigases became clear, it was Kailbourne who was hailed as the knight in shining armor who would lead the company quietly into Chapter 11.

http://www.detnews.com/2003/metro/0306/19/metro-196729.htm

The picture takes the form of a long interview with the former Kennedy- and Johnson-era defense secretary. There is terrific historical footage that should please anyone worried that the film is one giant talkathon. Director Morris, a perfect combination of smart journalist and creative artist, expertly matches footage to the words for stellar illumination and strong impact. His sharp take on the material is supported by a solid score by composer Philip Glass. This is a movie about the relentless nature of war, and the desire for something better.

McNamara, a former executive for the Ford Motor Company, never lets the soul-searching overwhelm his take on some of the most incredible moments in history. There are utterly fascinating points made about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile crisis, but just as fascinating is his take on events during the Spring of 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed and cities destroyed by firestorms caused by a massive American bombing campaign months before atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. McNamara was an analyst for the Air Force during World War II and part of the team, under the command of Curtis LeMay, which implemented this strategy.

But, it’s McNamara’s role in the rise of the American presence in Vietnam that is the core of the movie. Aged 85 at the time of filming, he is passionate about his ideas and eager to communicate them, and that helps the movie grab you and keep you interested. He has thought long and hard about his years in government, and he follows his own set of principles regarding ethics and service to one’s country. There’s a real sense that this man has some wisdom to impart and deserves a hearing. Though Vietnam came to be known as “McNamara’s War,” he contends that he was not eager to enter the conflict and did his best to get the United States out of it. Director Morris backs up these recollections with declassified White House tapes. You repeatedly hear McNamara advising caution and delivering pessimistic comments about what was happening or might happen in Southeast Asia. Time after time, President Lyndon Johnson ignores or overrules him.

McNamara considered leaving the administration, but he stayed. You watch the movie watching a man come to terms with his decision. The rest is history and a terrific documentary. Thanks to The Fog Of War, we have a better understanding of what goes on in the White House when America’s leaders chose the path to battle. In addition to Morris’ movie, you might also want to go see Oscar’s Best Foreign Language winner. The Barbarian Invasions is from Canada; it’s in French, and it’s a superb, sharp-witted film in which friends gather around a dying academic who wants to examine his life. Many of these same characters were seen in director Deny Arcand’s The Decline Of American Empire (from 1986). Not winners, but nominees are The Triplets Of Belleville and Girl With A Pearl Earring, both worth your time. The former is a delightfully quirky, jazzy animated work from France and the latter is a breath of subtlety and luminous cinematography in a world gone garish and mad. 21 Grams, a drama about disconnected lives, offers great performances from acting nominees Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro as well as a truly great performance from Sean Penn, who won his first Best Acting Academy Award for his role in Mystic River, also playing. The magnificent Lost In Translation, Best Screenplay winner for its director Sofia Coppola, continues to roll along.

Newcomers on the block are a turgid big screen version of the television series Starsky And Hutch. Ben Stiller is the dark-haired one and Owen Wilson is the blond-haired one. The unfunny buddy-cop film throws an odd gay (as in homosexual) spin into the proceedings because without jokes at the expense of someone being gay – or perhaps possibly being gay, there’s no movie at all. Isn’t that the definition of homophobia, laughs at the expense of a group of people? You bet it is, no matter how open-minded those connected with this silliness think they are in real-life. Hidalgo uses what looks like special effects from those Brendan Fraser mummy movies and seems a bit Indiana Jonesesque. Set in the 1890s, this is the story of a Pony Express rider (the always solid Viggo Mortensen) who travels to the Arabian peninsula to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a risk-filled race for what in the 19th-century was considered a lot of money. This is an old-fashioned family-style adventure that runs on too long (almost two and ¼ hours), but does deliver enough entertainment to succeed.

How many times can the moderately talented Ashley Judd make the same movie? Well, with Twisted, it seems ad nauseum. This is a yet another failed thriller, only this time Judd’s a hard-drinking, sexually active homicide cop who might be killing her beaus. Fat chance. Also failed is Against The Ropes in which a weird-looking Meg Ryan plays real-life boxing promoter Jackie Kallen. The movie is one of those gals in a guy’s world efforts that were a staple of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood. This one lacks any modicum of drama and Ryan’s face seems oddly plastic. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights offers frisky music and a contemporary idea of pre-Castro Cuba. This fish out of water tale – a young woman accompanies her American businessman father to Havana and learns about shakin’ her hips, is not very engaging or sexy. Any comparison to the popular original Dirty Dancing from 1987 is purely mathematical. Welcome To Mooseport, a weak comedy about a former President of the U.S. (Gene Hackman) running for mayor of a small village, wastes the talents of everyone involved.

Advocates for the homeless said that the hole in TEMHA funding should not be that hard to plug, and criticism of the program's freeze prompted a spate of TV and print news stories, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor at The Sun. The situation also spurred nearly 100 people to protest during Gov. Robert Ehrlich's State of the State address last Thursday morning, despite the frigid weather.

The negative publicity apparently prompted a damage-control effort on the part of the state Department of Human Resources communications office. According to an internal memo obtained by the Nose, the department's communications director, Norris West, was proud of his staff's ability to deflect continued negative media attention to the issue. West noted that, during the course of a week, the communications offices of the city Department of Social Services and the state Department of Human Resources managed to get WBAL TV's Stan Stovall and the Sun's Tom Pelton to do stories that focused on both agencies' positive messages, rather than on the complaints of detractors.

"We were able to defuse the protest and the story, to a large degree, and get out our message," the memo boasted. "All of this has been gratifying... We shall not rest. Although we have defused the issue of TEMHA for now, it may very well may resurface, especially with folks like the Baltimore mayor trying to stir the opposition."

When Stovall was contacted by the Nose, he did not express concern that he might have been used by the DHR's communications department.

But Pelton did express concern that the Department of Human Resources is more preoccupied with its image rather than the pending budget gap. "They appear very aggressive about trying to control the media, trying to control the press as if we're their ad agents," the Sun reporter said.

Kevin Lindamood, community relations director of the local nonprofit Health care for the Homeless, agreed. He said that the very idea that the Department of Human Resources would congratulate itself for squelching its opposition is anathematic to the agency's mission: to help those who need it the most. According to Lindamood, Human Resources officials saw the TEMHA shortfall coming and did nothing to stop it.

"This is the last remnant of Maryland's safety net," Lindamood said. "It's the weakest strand and below it is the street."

When the Nose contacted West, he declined to comment on the content of the memo, other than to say he felt it was important to get the department's message out. The message, he said, is that the dispossessed should still come in to get help applying for Social Security, disability, and food stamps, and that TEHMA benefits should be reinstated in July.

West said that the Department of Human Resources has little control over the TEMHA budget, and he assured the Nose that the state is working to plug the funding hole. The problem, West said, is that the number of applicants for the program has been much higher than the agency expected, about 1,700 more people per month than TEMHA funds could handle.

Human Resources deputy communications director Elyn Garret Jones said that the first time the department discussed the possibility of running short on funds was in August. The department had two options: It could either lower its payments to recipients of TEMHA or cap the number of applicants to the program. Lindamood and other advocates for the homeless rejected both options.

The Department of Human Resources, whose officials say many people receiving TEMHA assistance are not truly eligible for the program, has capped the program until July 1, unless a Feb. 26 Annapolis lobbying trip planned by homeless-advocacy groups can scare up a little extra money to make the program stretch.

From his office in the West Wing, Karl Rove now directs a “formidable political dirty tricks operation and disinformation mill.” Where did this begin, and who is this proclaimed American Joseph Goebbels?

Karl Rove was born in on December 25, 1950, in Denver. He grew up in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. He attended several different colleges but never attained a degree.

Matriculating academically probably wasn’t a priority for Karl. Politics was his focus. Republican politics. Legend has it that, at the tender age of nine, he backed Richard Nixon against John Kennedy. Perhaps this first loss galvanized his energy and concentrated his thinking. Many people think that JFK stole the 1960 election. Perhaps Nixon’s defeat convinced the young Karl Rove of something that the rest of already know: politics was, after all, a blood sport.

As mentioned above, Karl Rove had little use for college, but he did manage to win the race for the presidency of the College Republicans. The late Lee Atwater, a political hired killer of vicious reputation, managed Karl’s campaign. Rove was chairman of these same College Republicans when he caught the eye of George H.W. Bush, soon to be Republican National Committee chairman, director of the CIA, and, eventual, president. According to some sources, Karl Rove began his career in hardball politics during the 1972 re-election campaign of Richard Nixon. Rove is reported to have been a protégée of the infamous Donald Segretti. True or not, Rove ended up in the White House and Segretti in the big house.

As mentioned, Karl Rove has been compared to Nazi Germany propaganda minister Goebbels. He has been called George W. Bush’s political "Svengali" and, of course, a political genius. Much like the aforementioned Segretti, Karl Rove is showing that he is little more than a dirty trickster with an overblown reputation and very little imagination. To wit:

Karl Rove: senior adviser to the president; office of political affairs; office of political liaison; and office of strategic initiatives. With this title comes tremendous access to the president, where Karl Rove is said to wield great power and has absolute authority on everything political inside the White House.

But the following blunders prove that it’s understandable why Bush’s poll numbers have tanked and why Karl Rove has great style but no substance.

The latest fumbles are juvenile at best. First, a story broke on the Drudge Report, alleging an affair between John Kerry and an intern. This proved to be a hoax with no journalistic legs. A photo then circulated on the Internet showed Kerry and Hanoi Jane Fonda at a Vietnam war demonstration. This too proved to be a fake. Still another obvious fake photo surfaced yet again, this one showing John Kerry with the late Anton the Vampire. No one knows the source for the above nonsense, but these are strictly Bush league. High school pranks fit Karl Rove’s m.o. exactly.

As go-between for the Christian Right and the president regarding the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution against gay marriage, Rove promised that Bush would deliver. Rove is hoping to appease his political base and, at the same time, he is trying to put this non-issue on the front page for as long as possible. Gay marriage draws a lot of attention, and Rove knows it. He also knows that such an amendment will never come to pass.

Rove also had a hand in the disastrous Bush immigration policy announcement. This so-called amnesty angered everyone but illegal wetback mules. What began as a gambit designed to demonstrate Bush’s compassion for immigrants backfired once again, showing Rove as simply pandering for Hispanic votes while upsetting his political base.

George Bush and Meet the Press. The only reason that Bush didn’t come off worse than he did was the fact that host Tim Russert gave the president a pass. Nonetheless, Rove had his boss ill prepared for his interview. In it, Bush came off as an unsure one-trick pony, babbling endlessly about his “war time presidency.”

George Bush’s numbers flopped after his equally flat State of The Union address.

Karl Rove has been selling the president’s tax cuts as hard as he can from behind the scenes. These tax cuts, along with an unprecedented spending spree, have resulted in record deficits that will not soon go away. This behavior propelled New Hampshire Republicans to write in Democratic candidates during the primary, further embarrassing the president.

The Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame affair. After Ambassador Joe Wilson discredited Bush’s now-famous sixteen words regarding the elusive yellow cake from Niger in the 2003 State of the Union address as more justification for Iraq II, someone decided to expose Wilson’s wife Valerie as a CIA operative (or agent) in retaliation. The leak may have come from Vice president Dick Cheney’s office, but Wilson insists that Karl Rove was behind it. Given Rove’s record of schoolboy pranks, poor political decisions, and just plain stupidity, I can see why he made the claim. Outing Valerie Plame was not an act of political genius, it was an act of a jackass. It is a felony, with a grand jury now sticking its subpoenaed nose into the administration’s phone logs, e-mail records, and the pantry aboard Air Force One. The intelligence community is outraged; Joe Wilson has not been silenced and no one else was intimidated. And indictments against senior White House staff are looming just before the election. Someone is going to do ten years hard time for this.

Indeed, Karl Rove’s political skill is that of his so-called mentor, Donald Segretti. But in the end, Segretti had little effect on the outcome of the 1972 presidential campaign. Nixon had it locked up all along. He had a 20 percent lead in the polls just before the Watergate break in. The campaigns that Segretti targeted were not destroyed by him, but by their own candidates. The two most notable self-defeating candidates were Senators George McGovern and Ed Muskie, both of whom ran dismal campaigns. Donald Segretti gained little money and secured for himself an evil reputation in history as well as disbarment and a prison sentence. Richard Nixon would have won regardless of Segretti’s shenanigans.

But not so with Karl Rove. He has thus far ill served his master. There exists the very real possibility that the arrogance and hubris demonstrated by Karl Rove, along with his bag of sophomoric dirty tricks, could very well undermine the Bush re-election. A determined Senator Kerry could very well turn any further Karl Rove slander neatly on its ill-conceived head.

As a political talking head and pundit, my advice to Mr. Bush is to fire Karl Rove.

The Passion Of The Christ is neither a satisfying filmic experience, nor much of a parable about a fascinating spiritual man whose persuasive aura and teachings are hardly touched upon in the movie. The reaction of the true believers who have seen it is to accept the torture and the brutality and the scouring through which the character of Jesus suffers in the film as the gospel truth. Could any mortal have survived the whipping of which Gibson’s Jesus is victim? Medically speaking, of course not.

The blood-soaked The Passion… plays fast and loose with too many of the facts regarding the final hours of the carpenter Jesus of Nazareth. It fails as cinema because it violates basic constructs of what a drama should be. It doesn’t set up anything; it doesn’t develop its characters. It just unreels, assuming the moviegoer already knows the story. If you don’t know where Jesus is kneeling at the film’s start (the garden of Gethsemane), or why he’s there, well, you’re out of luck. Co-screenwriters Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald aren’t interested in telling a story, but are more determined in rushing through the chatter to get to the battering Jesus will take that is a marvel of special effects and nothing more. By the way, “gethsemane” is Aramaic for olive press because of the tool that was located in the middle of the olive grove where Jesus spent his final night.

Some of you will go to the movie to discover for yourselves what all the fuss is about. And some of you will, as a form of delusional behavior, see it because you want the film to be the box office champion; thus showing the Jews, who some think totally control Hollywood, that Christians are people too and matter when all the money is counted. The idea that Christians don’t matter in Hollywood is one of the great lies of the era. The Jewish men who founded the studios that participated in the Golden Age Of Hollywood were especially found of making Biblical epics such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, Samson And Delilah, etc. The movies may have been cheesy, but a desire to tell these stories belies the fallacy that the Bible and religion don’t count in Hollywood. Additionally, there are enough lovable nun and caring priest movies to fill a cathedral. The Bells Of St. Mary’s, anyone? Spencer Tracy in Boys Town? The musical frivolity of Sister Act? And so on.

The Passion Of The Christ is not about spirituality, but is instead about sadism. In the most literal interpretation of what Gibson and Fitzgerald project, the ruling Jewish religious leaders are concerned that Jesus is disrupting the status quo and want a benevolent Roman overlord (Pontius Pilate) to take him out. That’s it in a nutshell. Gibson has a directed a movie in which Pilate is depicted as a nice guy, when in actuality he slaughtered tens of thousands of the locals. As Gibson tells it, Pilate’s wavering over whether or not to crucify Jesus goes way beyond a mere washing of the hands. He has also cast a woman as the Devil. Ladies, start your psycho-sexual engines on that one. The film is drawn (uncredited) from the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but it especially takes it cue (also uncredited) from the writings (some would say ravings) of an obscure 19th-century mystic, a stigmatic nun, named Anne Catherine Emmerich. Sister Anne’s belief was that the only way people can become close to Christ is to participate in his suffering. The cast speaks Aramaic and Latin, which is subtitled. Roman soldiers headquartered in the Middle East would actually have spoken a dialect of Greek, but Gibson must have missed that class. By the way, the character of Mary Magdalene doesn’t speak at all. The best-selling new novel The Da Vinci Code tosses around the possibility that she may have been Jesus’ wife, but Gibson has no desire to explore very much about the times or the people or Jesus, and certainly nothing about the woman some religious leaders consider a whore. The only attempt to humanize Jesus is a flashback scene in which he and his mother Mary discuss his building a table for tall people. It’s unintentionally comic and seems more like something out of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian. As director, Gibson lifts a bit from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the 1959 movie version of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly, Last Summer (the overhead shot of Judas being chased by young boys is a direct steal from that film), and Jesus Christ Superstar. In both that musical film and The Passion…, Herod is a mincing, prancing twit surrounded by prissy, scantily clad boys. Gibson has always exhibited a touch of homophobia in his directorial work and I guess he figured why stop now.

Gibson paid the $30-million dollars for the movie himself and needed a publicity bath to draw attention to his effort. Utilizing a high-powered Los Angeles public relations firm, he was suddenly warning that “someone” didn’t want his movie to be seen. That someone, was, naturally, those age-old bogeymen: the Jews. There was no actual truth to this – it was all brilliant marketing manipulation, and Mel got the publicity bonanza he wanted. That he has made an uninteresting film not worthy of this attention seems to have escaped Gibson. I can’t help but think that Jesus would have been mightily irritated that greed got in the way of good. Advance screenings were held mostly for church groups, primarily Protestant evangelicals, and soon the Sheep were buying tickets in droves. Preaching to the choir was never this easy. The vast majority of the nation’s press (myself included) got to see the movie the Monday morning before it opened on Ash Wednesday. The entire build-up to the release date was a craven act of monumental proportions. In public utterances while promoting the movie, Gibson has acted put-upon by the negativity, but who’s he kidding. He wanted it and he got it. What concerns me is that deep inside his psyche, he might be comparing his suffering to Christ’s, at least just a little.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Jesus’ final twelve hours leading up to his crucifixion are depicted in what are known as The Stations Of The Cross, and Gibson delivers his version of The Stations. It’s Sunday School simplicity and hardly worth the effort. There are no messages or lessons to be learned. Just blood and gore bordering on the pornographic because, like all pornography, it eventually exhausts you. Gibson is a member of a small group of Catholics who are traditionalists. They reject the changes made by Vatican II, which included absolving Jews for the death of Jesus and an understanding that Heaven is not just the purview of Catholics. These traditionalists also conduct Mass in Latin, don’t eat meat on Friday, and want you understand that Christ’s suffering is more important than his message of love and forgiveness. Gibson has also proudly commented that his wife will not enter Heaven because she is an Episcopalian. Here are his words on that subject: “There is no salvation for those outside the Church. I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it. She’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.”

As for any anti-Semitism, Gibson denies it. The proof is in the pudding. Gibson claims to have deleted offensive lines of dialogue heard in early prints that refer to Jews as bound for eternal damnation for killing Christ. In the final cut of The Passion…, the subtitle for that exchange has been removed, but it is still spoken by a character. No, I don’t speak Aramaic, although I did take three years of Latin in high school. There are scholars who have revealed that the “Jews must suffer” line remains spoken in the film. Regarding the acting in the movie, well it’s pageant play acceptable as are the uninteresting and constricted sets. The cinematography is the highlight.

Gibson’s elderly father, Hutton, has issued statements in which he stated that the Holocaust is a figment of the imagination because, as he put it, when the Nazis started their crimes, most of the Jews left Europe for “Brooklyn and the Bronx; therefore, six million couldn’t have been killed.” Of course, this would have come as a surprise to the government leaders of those burgs at the time since they didn’t see the attendant population explosion. Regarding the movie his son has made, well, the fruitcake doesn’t fall far from the tree.

One would be a fool not to admit that there are exceptions to every rule. Not wanting to appear foolish, I unequivocally state that there are some in the upper ranks who did and do show bursts of intelligence, from one occasion to the next. As a former member of the Long Blue Line, I have been both a participant and an avid observer of an evolving police department. I realize that some of the top police administrators will find fault with the word evolving for they sincerely believe in the creation theory of police departments, usually starting with their own appointment. These people usually become commissioners and deputy commissioners skilled in the use of basketballs and blessed with a great deal of political acumen and great connections.

Recently, we have watched as cities around the country, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., militarized their police departments, their officers morphing into caricatures of special ops soldiers. Equipped with black uniforms, bloused jump boots, full body armor, including visored helmets, exotic-looking weapons, and three-foot long batons resembling Han Solo’s light saber, these special ops soldier imitations have been unleashed on citizens exercising the privileges granted under the Bill of Rights. The most recent instance has been in Miami, Florida, where the police under the leadership of John Timoney, a carpetbagger from Philadelphia, denied the right of peaceful assembly to any and all who sought to protest against the policies of the economic forum being held there.

The Miami Gestapo punished any and all caught demonstrating peacefully within a 100-block radius of the economic forum by gassing, assaulting, and illegally detaining them. Cameras and films were confiscated, and the reportage of the various illegal acts by the police suppressed. Timoney and his police force offered no apologies and committed acts that imply that any means necessary should be taken to quell civil dissent up to and including violations of the Constitution, which all law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold.

The trend to militarize civilian police departments does not bode well for our country, and I for one hope that police departments throughout the country will reassess what the function and role of the police in society is. “To serve and protect” is emblazoned on many of our local police vehicles and, to a large extent, it is firmly embedded in the hearts and minds of most officers who serve in that capacity. Some in the ranks see their jobs differently than the bulk of the men and women in police uniforms who just seek to get the job done in the easiest way possible.

Last fall, we were treated to the spectacle of our nation’s leading law enforcement moron, John Ashcroft, kicking off his support for the Patriot Act in our great City of Buffalo. He appeared at the downtown Hyatt Hotel in a bid to rally support for the continuation and enhancement of the most odious legislation since the 18th century Alien and Sedition Act. He was greeted by two to three hundred protesters. They chanted, banged on five gallon buckets, and otherwise had a good time for a couple of hours while various police department brass from all the varied agencies showed up to listen to the vagaries of Ashcroft’s fundamentalist mind. As a participant and an observer at this scene, I was proud to admit that I had once served in the very same police department that was present to serve and protect all of these protesting citizens. And I think that we, both police and citizen, felt quite secure by not being threatened by an army dressed for combat.

Our Buffalo Police Department may not get it right 100 percent of the time but, over the years, the men and women of the department deserve a grade of “A” for attempting to balance the requirements of good police work with a respect for the constitutional rights of the citizenry. They deserve our support, along with our critical eye, to ensure that they, like other police departments, do not slip into a military role. We cannot balance a police state with a civil society and still expect to exercise our constitutional freedoms.

My most recent clash with the legal system is not my first experience with the Bush administration's war against freedom of expression. I've observed the government exercising power, rather than safeguarding freedom, repeatedly, both as a private citizen and as a member of the press. One such incident occurred in September 2003, during Attorney General John Ashcroft's Patriot Act advertising campaign. The Alt Press editorial staff, there to report on the event, was almost refused admission, despite valid press passes. No questions from print media or radio reporters were accepted, and we were ordered to leave as soon as the speech ended and rejoin the protesters across the street. If we had returned, we could have faced federal charges. Is this Ashcroft's version of freedom of the press?

When Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a $1,000 a plate dinner on November 17, 2003, the area around the restaurant was bristling with law enforcement personnel, and protesters were forced, under threat of arrest, to stay in a fenced-in corral. Is that Cheney's version of freedom of assembly?

The governmental response to my attempt to assert my rights of freedom of speech and assembly at Fort Benning on November 23, 2003, was to file a federal charge against me. The government accused me of trespassing onto a military base for a purpose prohibited by military regulation, namely “protest.” The government's position was that prohibiting political expression on a military base is necessary to ensure an "apolitical" military that is subservient to civil authorities.

Certainly, the views of the School of the Americas Watch were seen as “prohibited political expression” at Fort Benning. We came there to demand the permanent closure of the School of the Americas (renamed in January 2001 as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation"). We were there to demand an investigation of the school and its graduates by an independent truth and reconciliation commission, as recommended by Amnesty International in its November 2002 report, "Unmatched Power/Unmet Principles." We were there as witnesses to the suffering that victims of SOA graduates had endured. We were there to speak truth to power and to point out horrendous human rights violations. But unyielding power spoke to us in the form of military police and U.S. marshals.

Apparently, though, the Army felt that it was exempt from the very regulations that it enforced so vigorously against SOA Watch. On November 22, it disrupted SOA Watch’s legal demonstration by blasting loud patriotic music from stereo speakers placed near the fence. The Army's claim was that it played the music to boost the morale of the troops, none of whom were anywhere near the fence. That loud music constituted symbolic speech, meaning that the Army had created a "limited public forum," argued attorney Ed Osowski, who represented Brother Mike O'Grady of Ohio, Father Bernard Survil of Pennsylvania, and me in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Georgia, on January 27. And, he argued, by arresting us when we walked around a fence not posted with "no trespassing" signs for expressing a contrary position, the Army was engaging in "viewpoint discrimination."

U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Mallon Faircloth convicted us of the trespass charge, anyway, even though the prosecution could not rebut our first-amendment defense. The prosecution could not even prove that the U.S. government owned the land on which Fort Benning has been built, as the Army's surveyor failed, when asked, to produce a deed to the property.

When Judge Faircloth asked me if I had anything to say before sentencing, I talked mostly about my feelings about a school that continues to operate, despite charges that its graduates have engaged in hideous acts of torture and assassination. I expressed in court the things that I was not permitted to say at Fort Benning, where I was processed twice, roughly searched, and shackled. I concluded by saying, "...I do not believe that I have violated any laws. I believe that my actions were protected by the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and free assembly and that these rights do not end with a fence at the end of the road."

By January 28, twenty-seven of us had been convicted of asserting our rights beyond that fence at the end of the road. I recalled that, when I was brought to the Muscogee County Jail on November 23, my copy of the constitution was described on my personal property inventory sheet as a "pocket guide book." Not as the law of the land. Just a "guide book." That seems to say it all.