The atmosphere of the ritual is serious, of course, but the flood of nostalgia it unleashes often washes away the sins of the past. Sepia-toned television imagery allows the subjects to attribute any shortcomings of the deceased to bad counsel or accidents of history. The death of any of these god-like figures becomes an opportunity for mere mortals to reflect upon the meaning of life, while allowing the machinery of the state to show power devolving to the mourning heirs in the most natural and reverent manner possible.

The recent death of Princess Kikuko of Japan at the age of 92 provides these same opportunities to the royal court of Japan. However, her death also presents an opportunity for a more forthcoming discussion of the Japanese Imperial family’s involvement in the prosecution of Japan’s colonial wars and the post war period.

From an occidental point of view, the death of the Princess was a mere footnote; nothing like the media deluge that would have accompanied the death of the Queen Mum of England, for example. Although the Japanese royal family doesn’t generate the same interest in this country as the House of Windsor, it can certainly be argued that the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan is of equal, if not greater importance, to political events of the twentieth century.

So why should westerners pay attention to the death of this somewhat obscure Asian royal?

From her entry into the Japanese Imperial family as the bride of Emperor Hirohito’s youngest brother, Prince Takamatsu, Princess Kikuko was different. From her fondness for the latest western “flapper” fashions as a newlywed to her reputation for angry outbursts, Princess Kikuko was not a model of feminine subservience. Her recent decision to publish diaries written during the height of Japanese expansionism by her late husband Prince Takamatsu was perhaps one of her boldest decisions.

Publication of these diaries collectively called "Takamatsunomiya Nikki" (Prince Takamatsu Diary) has added significantly to the historical understanding of the period, which is important to international relations in the region. Even now, the traumatic events of the Japanese colonial wars are a source of great division in Asia. Anger over the Japanese occupation and the practice of forcing women to become “comfort women” (a euphemism for sex slaves) is still stoked to great effect in N. Korea, for example. As China rises as an international power, many Chinese feel that Japan has yet to express sufficient remorse for horrific events such as the Rape of Nanking.

“The Yamato Dynasty, The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family” by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave gives us an overview of the Japanese Imperial family in the twentieth century that sheds new light on the role of the royal family. If it had not been for Princess Kikuko’s decision to publish her diaries, a piece of the puzzle would have been missing.

Since Prince Takamatsu wasn’t next in line to the throne, he viewed himself as marginal. Describing his chief responsibility as, “…to exist and do nothing bad,” Takamatsu’s perspective gives us a rare look inside the machinery of the royal court. Even while Japanese soldiers were worshipping the Emperor as a virtual deity, Takamatsu took part in the real politic of the mid-thirties, which assured a symbiotic relationship between the Imperial family and the proverbial “evil counselors.” This allowed the courtiers and the military to carry out their xenophobic project of looting and pillaging their Asian neighbors for the greater glory of the Emperor.

In “The Yamamoto Dynasty,” the Seagraves describe Takmatsu’s diaries as the revelations of, “…a man deeply pained by the absurdities of Japanese society and the birdcage role of the Imperial family.”

The book goes on to expose the fact that although much of the war booty accumulated by the Japanese army during World War II, was officially unaccounted for at the end of the war, it did, nevertheless, find its way back into the Japanese economy. Perhaps the most controversial, but logical thesis in the book is that the symbiosis between the Imperial family and their inner circle widened after the war to include the Zaibatsu industrial families and also American interests represented by General Douglas MacArthur, the House of Morgan and the nascent Central Intelligence Agency.

The evidence presented suggests that this new group conspired to disperse war booty and shield assets of the Imperial family in order create a new Japanese-American hegemony in the East, to guarantee a speedy war reconstruction effort and also to erect a bulwark against the rising tide of communism.

The diaries of Prince Takamatsu which Princess Kikuko revealed to the world show us a view from within the gilded cage of how the human symbol of the Yamamoto dynasty was manipulated to create unquestioning, patriotic and religious support for a campaign of total war.

In addition to her philanthropic work on behalf of cancer research, the Princess will also be remembered for including herself in a recent political debate over the future of the throne, According to her Associated Press obituary, “In 2002, after Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako had a daughter, Kikuko was the first royal to publicly call for changes to a postwar law that allows only male heirs to assume the Chrysanthemum Throne.”

Indeed, the mourning period being observed for the Princess in advance of her Dec. 26 funeral seems to be filled with the family drama over whether Aiko, the three-year-old daughter of the Crown Prince will become the next Emperor.

How the Japanese choose to mourn the Princess could be an indication of what the future holds for the land of the Rising Sun. Will there be a greater sense of openness about the events of the past and the way they are remembered in Japan, or will a new generation of royals inhabit the same gilded cage of its’ forebears? This question is not as academic as it might seem at first blush.

The Japanese-American political economist Francis Fukuyama famously predicted at the end of the euphoric nineties that we may find ourselves at the end of history. Before we rush to embrace the notion of universal liberal democracy, however, some reflection of how we came to this point might be in order.
While the cold war may be over, and communism may be in the dustbin of history, what about the problems of extreme nationalism and neo-fascism? Something to think about as the U.S. flexes its muscles around the world and Japan ponders a return to militarism. Not all of the ghosts of the past have been exorcised. The occasion of Princess Kikuko’s passing may represent a time to ponder this.
Most companies outsource their advertising, printing & training needs. AdHub.com makes it easy for them to research these services by comparing detailed company profiles and work portfolios. The site also features columns, press releases, jobs and a regional event calendar.

What began as a printed directory in 1993 by publisher, Walter Ketcham of Rochester, has evolved into an online resource that promotes Upstate New York as a single market with a growing reputation for world class services.

Ketcham says, "There may be bigger markets, but our creative and technical skills in Upstate New York are second to none."

"The internet has changed the way so many industries work. Today, companies are more willing to work with vendors who may be in neighboring cities. A marketing director can approve a digital photo, shot minutes earlier, from across the country. So the working distance between Buffalo, Albany & White Plains is just our own big back yard," says Ketcham.

The AdHub will continue to accept digital cards from companies in the advertising and training industry. Call 585-442-2585.

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Walter Ketcham
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since 1993 - Your Link to Advertising & Training Resources in Upstate New York
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It wasn’t because of a racy video a la Paris Hilton that Mr. Getz found himself in the celebrity spotlight, however. Some taxpayers found the preservation of Getz’ salary to be just as obscene. The media whipped this into a firestorm and, voila, a star was born.

Getz became the living embodiment of the proverbial political cockroach, capable of surviving a budget holocaust, intact. Of course, there’s never just one cockroach.

As Plunkett of Tammany Hall famously stated, there’s a distinction to be made between graft and honest graft. In this same spirit, Giambra vociferously defended his patronage system as being comprised of the “best and brightest” and, therefore, thoroughly legitimate, “honest patronage.”

The legal costs that the county has picked up in connection with the defense of some of Joel’s patronage “stars,” however, suggests that Joel’s patronage system has been less than honest. Perhaps the fault lies not in these stars, but in ourselves.

Aurora Garage Scandal Legal Costs

Last year, Giambra patronage appointee Douglas Naylon faced a grand jury investigation for his role in the Aurora Garage scandal. The scandal didn’t seem to bother voters as Giambra won re-election to office handily. As an Erie County Highway Department district engineer, Naylon faced accusations of harassment, missing money and equipment, serial mismanagement, and a lack of accountability.

“We hire only the best and brightest people,” Giambra said after being questioned about his patronage hires by his opponent, Dan Ward.

As one of Giambra’s best and brightest, Naylon was extended the best private legal help that taxpayer funds could purchase. In a letter to County Legislator Al Debenedetti, County Attorney Fredrick Wolf pointed out that the county was bound to defend its employees in actions that fell within the scope of their duties and defended the action “…because it was clear to us that there is a potential of a conflict of interest which precluded our office from representing Mr. Naylon, we had no choice, as has been the case in a number of other matters, but to allow Mr. Naylon the opportunity to retain counsel of his choice at the expense of the county. Mr. Naylon opted to choose Lipsitz, Green et al.”

In a debate with Giambra last year, Ward challenged the county executive to waive immunity for himself and his cronies in the Aurora scandal. Giambra scoffed, predicting full exoneration. Of course, one year has passed, and Naylon pled guilty to charges. Guess who’s stuck with his legal bills? As Giambra said about the scandal recently, this is old news.

More Aurora Garage Scandal Legal Costs?!

While the Aurora garage scandal may be old news, perhaps voters were unaware that some of the lawsuits are just now coming to trial. One of the garage workers, Gerald Williams, has charged two other employees, Albert Coia and Christian Gerling, with harassment and assault. Since these employees were “acting within the scope of their employment,” we’re going to make the wild prediction that taxpayers will wind up paying the legal costs and damages once again. Joel’s friends and family plan might not be cheap but, then again, the crusade for true governmental reform never is, right? This, too, may be old news, but hey, it’s been a slow news week!

Furniture-gate: Fred Wolf’s Legal Eagles Fly Again

At the risk of being redundant, we remind you that handing off county cases to politically connected law firms is old news in Buffalo.

Turning government accounts over to political cronies so that they can rachet up profits for themselves and the political machine is also a very old and well-respected way of doing the people’s business in Buffalo.

So when Buffalo Office Interiors, owned by Giambra fundraising buddy, James Spano, started to come under scrutiny for overcharging the county for office furniture, the solution to this little problem was painfully obvious. It amounted to another chance to give a government handout. This time Phillips, Lytle et al. was hired as a special outside counsel. Simply admitting that his right hand man had overcharged the county and refunding the money was unthinkable. It would have amounted to political suicide. It also would have wasted a perfectly legitimate opportunity to give another government handout.

Again, DeBenedetti requested details of the deal from Fred Wolf. In his response letter, Wolf reported that the firm was paid at a reduced rate of $185 per hour for work on the case. The cost to taxpayers was a mere $ 11,375. Michael Powers, who successfully argued in favor of a Seneca casino in downtown Buffalo, took the lion’s share of the money.

In the recent budget debate, Giambra was adamant that we can and will afford this kind of patronage, come hell or high water. If he is true to his word, Giambra has now passed the halfway point in his reign as county executive. If the recent defection of his lieutenant, Carl Calabrese, is any indication, his ability to command unquestioning support of his followers may now be waning as well.

Much has been made of Joel’s imperious leadership style, but our “Joel as Caesar” photo is strictly tongue in cheek. After all, Julius Caesar was fully aware of the moment that he “crossed the Rubicon.” Unfortunately for Erie County, voters were oblivious as well.

I spent a lot of time exploring what was inside of me. I wondered what caused me to feel the need to cross again. In this inner journey, what came to me were not words, but images and feelings. When I closed my eyes, I could see Sister Dianna Ortiz as she was in 1987: young and full of life and enthusiasm for her big adventure as a missionary teacher. I could hear her laugh about the little students whom she had taught in the United States. And then I heard screams of pain, of fear, of anger. I could feel the joy being forcibly ripped away from Sister Dianna by terrible men who have never been held accountable for their crimes. One of the men was an American, who was with the CIA. Others had been trained at the School of the Americas.

Sister Dianna is only one of many who have been either tortured or killed or both by graduates of the School of the Americas.

I studied the issues, too, and this helped me make my decision to cross the fence again. This is what I found:

The United States government refuses to take responsibility for the training that has led to these terrible crimes being committed. The United States government has never asked for the curriculum of the School of the Americas and for the behavior of its graduates to be investigated by a truth and reconciliation commission. The United States government responds, not with apologies and offers of reparation, but with denials, lies, and name changes.

The United States government calls the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation a “new school for the new century.” If that were really so, the United States government would have already set up the truth and reconciliation commission to investigate that old, discredited school. Why has that not happened?

If I were to suddenly get tired of being “Alice” and were to change my name to, say, Eleanor or Morwenna or Bridget, would I become a new person? Would my name change make me into someone whom I am not?

Can the United States, by changing the name of the School of the Americas to the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation, make the school into something that it is not?

I don’t believe that the country that denies the prisoners of Guantanamo prisoner of war status so that it can hold them for extended periods of time without pending charges is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that prosecutes an illegal war in Iraq is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that blames the prisoner abuse/torture at Abu Ghraib on its lower ranking soldiers is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that certified Colombia as having a clean human rights record is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops. Nearly all of the murders of labor union leaders in the world occur in Colombia.

Of course, Colombia has oil. Iraq has oil. I don’t believe that the country that lusts after the oil belonging to foreign countries is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I chose to make the strongest statement that I could, to try to draw attention to a training academy that is teaching known human rights violators methods for refining their skills.

I am grateful for your support. Whatever you can do to support me as I go to trial next month will be very much appreciated.

For several years, Buffalo and the surrounding area has been the site of an internecine warfare between grocery stores chains. This is the third Jubilee to close this year; the stores in Orchard Park and Clarence both closed last spring. But closing at Christmas time makes the pain of losing your job even worse.

Today, the store is a shell of its former self; the corridors are mostly empty as stock is liquidated at rock bottom prices. Signs are scattered around the store reminding shoppers that, along with the 30 percent discount, the store now has a “no returns policy.” There are a couple of cashiers still working but the ambience makes you feel as if you were walking into a skeleton of a store.

The place is dark, too; only half of the store’s lights are on. Outside, the parking lot still has a few cars in it, mainly belonging to people, who are attracted by the big “Close Out Sale” sign on Kenmore Avenue. “The regular customers are gone,” said a cashier who didn’t want to be identified. “People are just picking stuff over now.” As if to emphasize the point, a mid-thirties couple is taking turns giving each other rides on shopping carts in the back of the store. They whiz down the lonely aisles like out-of-control five year olds. Somehow, I can’t see them doing this a month and a half ago when the store was crowded, noisy, and lit up.

“Some of us are applying at other stores,” says the cashier, ringing out my close-out carpet cleaner, “but it is kind of sad.” More than 70 people used to work together here. The United Food and Commercial Worker’s union representative Mike Manna summed it up, “There are a lot of ways that this is sad, but the biggest thing is that these were good jobs with guaranteed raises and health care benefits, and those jobs are harder to find these days.” Beyond that, the place was known as a good place to work, with an owner, Mike Fabiniak, whom many people agreed was a “stand -up guy.” Workers and management had pulled together to try to save the store some time ago, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

Calls to the City of Buffalo and the Town of Tonawanda made it clear that both cities were aware of the closing, but only in an absent minded way. People either didn’t know what I was talking about or knew it only vaguely. For the people who worked there and for well-liked local owner Mike Fabiniak, their store is ending with a sigh. I will miss it, and I will now be driving a little farther to get my groceries. So will my whole neighborhood.

The UFCW is working with workers to help them find work at some of the other unionized grocery chains, such as Tops. “The thing is, when you shop at a non-union place such as Wegman’s or Aldi’s, you support forcing down your neighbors’ standard of living,” adds Mike Manna. So think about that as you shop for eggnog and candy canes during this holiday season.

This northern post-industrial wasteland known as Buffalo is finally getting with the program and spending untold tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on one of the biggest bait and tackle shops in the world. Like Senator “Death Penalty” Dale Volker said, years from now you’ll be telling your grandkids how Tony Masiello, Joel Giambra, and George Pataki saved us by driving us from bankruptcy and into the open arms of southern culture on the skids. You bet, bud. We sure can get there from here!

The research department at The Buffalo News was quick to issue a big ten-four to that by telling its readers that the new bass pro complex is likely to draw as many as five million visitors a year. That’s right! Five million good ol’ boys a year.

So it’s about as clear as your Grandpappy’s white lightning: five million bubbas can’t be wrong! No, sir. This here Bass Pro’s gonna save Buffalo.

Some of us are a little sick of all the negativity around here. All this pissin’ and moanin’ about libraries and such. It’s like my Daddy told me: Just remember, the sun shines on a dawg’s ass ever' now and then!

And these people putting down Joel Giambra for his red budget. Well how’re we gonna turn this into a red state without a red budget? Answer me that. Joel has been busier than a one-legged cat tryin’ to bury shit on a frozen pond. So leave him and his cousin, Jethro, I mean, Victor alone!

Speakin’ of animals and asses, we put some research of our own together to show all of them horses’asses out there who say we can’t afford a Bass Pro just how big this will be. Let’s take a gander (and I don’t mean mountain) at how Five million bubbas comin’ to Buffalo every year compares to other so-called tourist destinations.

One treehugger website says that, “Herschel Island Territorial Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska receive the largest number of visitors. Ivvavik National Park receives just over a hundred visitors per year. Vuntut National Park has received few visitors so far and numbers of one or two per year hardly show up on the graph.”

Huh? One hundred visitors a year? Now, we know that this here ANWR has more than a little Texas tea to be had but from all of the bitchin’ about ANWR that those donkey’s asses do, you’d think it was the capital of Yankeeville, or something. One hundred visitors a year, one or two visitors a year? No o-fence intended, but that’s pathetic. Put up them oil derricks and who knows, maybe those Eskimos could afford to come to Buffalo and see the biggest Bass Pro on God’s green earth.

And all these liberals’re gettin’ their knickers in a bunch over the Constitution. Did you realize that the National Constitution Center had only 321,391 visitors last year? In other words, fifteen times as many people are more interested in buying their fishin’ gear at Bass Pro in Buffalo than the Constitution of the United States. Maybe that’s because Bass Pro honors the first amendment better than any boring Constitutional Center can. After all, Bass Pro sells guns. Don’t know about you, but that makes me happier'n a carp in a septic tank!

Some of you Bills fans might have seen the new Seattle Seahawks football stadium with the skyline of the City in the background. Big deal. “In 1998 Washington ranked 14th out of the US states with 541,000 overseas visitors (excluding those from Canada and Mexico).” By my reckonin’ that’s ten times less folks than we’re gonna get here with the Bass Pro. Take that Bill Gates!

Looking at it another way, the United States gets nearly 50 million international visitors each year, so theoretically ten percent of those people could come to the Bass Pro. That’s the equivalent of five million bubbas. Hot damn!

And then there’s old Europe. No doubt they’re against us. But with things getting better every day in Iraq, they’re all probably feeling pretty foolish for second guessin’ the good ol’ USA. You might not know, for example, that Paris is the capital of France and what’s their main attraction? It’s this piss-ant little glorified outhouse that they call the Eiffel tower. How many visitors a year go to it? Only five and a half million! I can guarantee that the Bass Pro in Buffalo does better than that in its second year. Frenchies can’t fish, either I s’pose.

And to all our Canadian friends who feel so smug about the fact that twelve million people a year visit Niagara Falls, if you’re reading this article you must be shakin' like a lil' dog shittin' peach seeds. Cause you know that once the Bass Pro brings in a casino all of your attractions are gonna start to look worse than a bear’s ass sowed up with barbed wire.

Now that we’ve proven beyond a gnat’s ass of a doubt that the Bass Pro deal’s gonna save Buffalo, we need to tell off those treehuggers, some more. The Bass Pro is gonna be the jewel in our crown, shinin' like a diamond in a goats ass, so we need to clear up some disinformation about whether or not the fish in Lake Erie are safe to eat. Safe to eat? Why that thought is makin me so hungry I could eat the south end of a north bound skunk. So without any further to do here’s what the New York State Department of Health has to say about the matter:

“Due to PCB contamination, women of childbearing age, infants and children under the age of 15 are advised to eat no more than one meal per week of chinook salmon less than 19 inches, burbot, freshwater drum, lake whitefish, rock bass and yellow perch and to EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of all other fish from Lake Erie. Other people should eat no more than one meal per week of any Lake Erie fish species.”

Like that great lawyer Ben Matlock, did on many occasions, I rest my case. Bass Pro ain’t no good ol’ boy handout, it’s a good ‘ol boy magnet. Just like all them ribbon magnets on you see on vehicles these days, this Bass Pro’s gonna support our troops. It’s like Charley Daniels said, “Get loud and get proud, cause the south’s gonna do it agin!”

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a filmmaker who loves magic-realism, as he put to brilliant use in Amelie. In A Very Long Engagement he’s teamed up again with his Amelie star, Audrey Tautou, in a gorgeous looking movie based on Sebastian Japrisot’s World War I-era novel about a woman who refuses to believe that her soldier love has been killed. He was one of five French military prisoners convicted by their superiors of self-mutilation to avoid duty. Tautou is truly moving as Mathilde and Gaspard Ulliel is excellent as her beloved Manech. You should go to this film reading little about it, so I’m not going to spoil the vision you’ll encounter with any more information. This is an epic love story that proves to be an emotional juggernaut.

Screenwriter-director James L. Brooks enjoys making movies about human nature. Even when his films border on drama, he goes for the joke. Sometimes the dramedy wears thin. Before you see Brooks’ latest, Spanglish (the odd mix of Spanish and English spoken in multi-cultural cities like Los Angeles), you have to get used to three things. One is Adam Sandler in a calm role. Two is Adam Sandler as a leading man. Three is Adam Sandler married to Tea Leoni. Hit and miss here, folks, hit and miss. The movie is about colliding cultures. It goes from amiable comedy to nasty comedy faster than a rattlesnake strikes. A Mexican woman with a daughter arrives in L.A. hoping to capture the American dream. She ends up as a maid in a comfortably well off Beverly Hills household. Dad is Sandler, a nice guy who has a popular, well-rated restaurant to run. Mom is Leoni and she’s a neurotic mess. High maintenance doesn’t begin to describe her. These are the Claskys, parents to a son and daughter. Along for the ride is their wisecracking grandma, Cloris Leachman, who’s good in the role, but the cliches start falling out of Leachman’s mouth right from the get-go. Are their any seniors in Hollywood who aren’t feisty? The gist of Brooks strained effort is that dad is running out of excuses for mom’s behavior. The kids are not okay. Granny is a boozehound. Eventually, the Clasky clan takes the maid and her kid to their Malibu place for the summer. It’s here that the movie’s cultural commentary crumbles. The dialogue really gets mean-spirited. There are no insights into dysfunctional behavior and the Upstairs-Downstairs connections are pointless. The usually wonderful Leoni is so over-the-top that she has nowhere to go with her character. Sandler’s low-key performance is fine, but soon becomes dull. The movie fades into the Pacific Ocean as it tries to tie-up Brooks’ views of the relationship between a maid and her bosses, mother-daughter bonding, and having a career versus hanging around.

Closer is based on the hit play of the same name. We’re in contemporary London, and the movie expertly captures the look of the new architecture that has befallen that town. Some of it is striking, but most of it is deadly. The film feels modern, but its roots are in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. This is a terrifically tough, lacerating adult drama about four lonely souls searching for passion. Sexual passion, relationship passion, human contact passion. Closer seethes with bitter emotions. Would-be novelist Dan (Jude Law) meets an American who’s a part-time stripper. She’s Alice (Natalie Portman) and it’s lust from the start. You know there are going to be complications. The movie, directed by Mike Nichols, uses flash-forwards and flashbacks as unsettling expository elements. The technique works. Seems that Dan has met photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) at a photo shoot and betrays Alice by seducing Anna, who meets a hyper-masculine dermatologist named Larry (Clive Owen). Since nothing stops on a dime in this movie, she and Larry are soon in bedded bliss. But the bliss doesn’t last for anyone as backstabbing and betrayal are the order of the day. The quartet keeps the sparks flying. Closer has scathing insights into the negative things that humans do to each other in relationships. The acting is brilliant from all. This is one hard-edged movie.

Twelve is the new eleven. That’s what the posters read. Like the movie, it’s a saying that’s meaningless. Ocean’s Twelve is a trifle wherein the good-looking gang from the Ocean’s Eleven remake returns to carry out a series of scores so they can pay back Las Vegas casino owner Andy Garcia who’s out for vengeance. He’s already collected on the insurance, but the boring Garcia, looking like Peter Lorre, wants to double his money. Enter Danny Ocean and company (the twelfth member of the gang will end up being Ocean’s wife, Julia Roberts (sans make-up and with stringy hair – her interpretation of homemaker, I guess). Also along for the ride – and a ludicrous ride it is – is a lifeless Catherine Zeta-Jones as an Interpol agent trying to outguess what Ocean plans to do in Amsterdam, Paris, or Rome. It turns out she once had a love affair with Brad Pitt’s character, but we didn’t see that in Ocean’s Eleven, so it comes out of left field. Zeta-Jones seems to have been modeled after actress Anna Karina from some of Jean-Luc Godard’s faux gangster films. She can’t pull it off. In fact, she pulls nothing off. Another subplot involves a Frenchman known as The Night Fox wants to keep his title of world’s greatest thief. Add Bruce Willis as Bruce Willis, Eddie Izzard and Albert Finney in cameos that look truncated from longer bits, and you’ve got a caper movie that isn’t about anything except George Clooney playing ennui until it hurts. Hurts you, not him. I like Clooney a lot, but come on. This is a film that is virtually without solid elements. It’s more like the Frank Sinatra Rat Pack 1960s Ocean’s Eleven than a next step in the Ocean caper progression. Director Steven Soderbergh has made a movie that’s lighter-than-air and just as gassy. A bit of it is fun, but most of it isn’t.

Theses incidents were described in affidavits collected to bolster an election challenge lawsuit that was filed on the same day at the Ohio Supreme Court. The official recount, instigated by the state’s Green and Libertarian parties, was also scheduled to begin yesterday as Ohio’s Republican Electoral college members also met at noon. President Bush’s campaign officials have complained, pointing out that the effort won’t reverse the Presidents reelection. Bush beat Kerry by about 119,000 votes in Ohio on election- day.

On Sunday, Dec. 12, Senator John Kerry spoke to Jesses Jackson urging him to ‘take a more active role in investigating irregularities and ensuring a fair and impartial recount.” Evidently the Kerry campaign has contributed some of the $50 million left over from the general election to help. Expertise like Jesse Jackson doesn’t come cheap. Kerry pointed out the three areas that should be considered: 92,000 ballots that recorded no vote for president; counting and qualifying provisional ballots; and analyzing the software and set-up of the optical scan voting machines.

Affidavit Excerpts for the Election Challenge:

In Warren County election official declared a homeland security emergency and barred reporters and others from watching the recount on election- day. It turns out that county employees were told the previous Thursday to expect the lockdown. That being the case, why were ballots left unguarded? This suggests the lockdown was politically motivated and not a security threat.

In Knox County, students at a liberal arts college stood in line for up to 11 hours because only one voting machine was available. However, at nearby My Vernon Nazarene University, there were plenty of machines and no lines.

Shorting of voting machines turns out to be a major event.

In Franklin County, the election director seems to have perjured himself by testifying that the county had no additional machines. It now appears that as many as 81 voting machines out of 2,866 were kept away from voters. These shortages in democratic areas led to long lines and many people abandoning polling places before casting their ballots in complete frustration.

Also in Franklin County, staff at a Holiday Inn noticed a group of 25 peoples who called themselves the “Texas Strike Force’ using payphones to make intimidating calls to likely voters. The “Texas Strike Force” members paid their own way to Ohio; but the Ohio Republican Party paid for their hotel rooms. People who were not inside polling places by 7:30 PM were told to leave, even if they had been waiting for hours. This is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

In Warren County, Democrats were being targeted and forced to use provisional ballots even though they had proper identification. Sworn Affidavits conformed reports that old voter registration rolls being used, therefore new voters were not on the list and had to be given provisional ballots. Some were not allowed to vote at all.

Tampering with the Numbers

Jonathan David Simon, an expert witness, claims that at 12:53 AM the exit polls suddenly altered the projected winner without changing the number of votes cast. “Although each update reports the same number of respondents (872), the reported results differ significantly, with the latter exit poll results apparently having been brought into congruence with the tabulated vote results.” It would seem that the exit polls were fixed to declare President Bush the winner.

Another affidavit by Richard Hayes Phillips, geomorphology Ph.D from the University of Oregon, claims to have discovered that votes were taken away from Kerry by what can only be described as computer manipulation. “It is my professional opinion that John Kerry’s margins of victory were wrongly reduced by 22,000 votes in Cleveland, by 17,000 votes in Columbus, and by as many as 7,000 votes in Toledo.” Dr. Phillips points to a suspect statistic in Miami County. Early in the evening, when 31,620 votes had been counted and then again when 50, 325 were in…”Kerry had exactly the same percentage, 33.92, and George Bush was almost exactly the same…the second set of returns gave Bush a margin of exactly 16,000 votes, giving cause to question the integrity of the central counting device for the optical scan machine.”

Jesse Jackson is not John Kerry’s only ally in Ohio. Donald McTigue is the lawyer responsible for the recount for the Senator. Kerry wants election officials to allow McTigue to visually inspect the suspect 92,000 ballots on which no vote for president was recorded. Lawyer McTigue said that the visual inspection is allowed under state law. His goal is to look for votes that were cast but not recorded by the tabulating machines. Senator Kerry also has requested that independent experts be retained to check both the calibration and programming of the election equipment.

“We’re trying to increase the transparency of the election process,” said McTigue. This concept seems to be invisible in the republican camp.

Good luck. You’ll need it.

The Aviator is everything the Academy supposedly likes: energetic, well-acted, colorful, rife with dazzling production values, and filled with terrific references to moviemaking itself. Nothing like a little pat on the back to make film folks happy. Whereas the tedious two hour and fifty minute running time of Alexander felt like we were fighting the entire Alexandrian campaign, the two hour and fifty minute running time of The Aviator seems like speed dialing. The movie is fast, often funny, and never dull. Scorsese’s biggest challenge was to make industrialist Howard Hughes interesting. It isn’t enough that a person has a fascinating life. The movie itself has to be fascinating. Hughes was a Texas kid who inherited an oil drill-bit business, invented all sorts of gizmos and styles of planes for the airline industry, produced and directed movies, and bedded some of the most interesting women in Hollywood. Seems like pretty amazing fodder for cinematic bliss. Well, the road to riches is strewn with interesting ideas that failed as screen entertainment. Larger-than-life often seems puny when that life gets the biopic treatment. Not this time.

Hughes has popped up in movies before, including Melvin And Howard, in which a goofy sort of ordinary guy supposedly inherited much of Hughes wealth. But he was a part-time character in that film. This time around, Scorsese has provided a broad canvas upon which to depict much of Hughes successful and quirky existence. We don’t get the full extent of his life, none of the crazy older billionaire holed up in a Las Vegas hotel suite watching Ice Station Zebra over and over and padding around naked wearing empty Kleenix boxes for slippers.

To Scorsese’s credit, we definitely get a look at Hughes mental disorder, and I think the look we get is look enough. Hughes had obsessive compulsive disorder before OCD was the disease of the season.

The Aviator takes us from Hughes arrival in Hollywood to make his airplane-filled war epic Hell’s Angels to his rip-roaring battle with a corrupt United States Senator who practiced governmental chicanery to the nth degree and was in the hip pocket of the chairman of Pan American Airways. Hughes’ air company was TWA. Competition can get pretty ugly when U.S. Senators are on-the-take.

Scorsese has gathered together a number of his loyal collaborators and that comfort level adds to the movie’s success. And think about, the guy’s previous film was Gangs Of New York. You really have to admire the ability of a director who’s able to follow one movie (Gangs…) with another like The Aviator. They are both broad and sweeping; the kind of motion picture people call epic. And Scorsese has the talent to deliver a feature that is a font of cinematic richness. He knows how to move a camera, cut to the heart of a scene, and keep the audience alert. More power to him. These days, hard-edged, driven billionaires seem to be all around. Reality television is filled with obnoxious tycoons like Donald Trump or inventive tycoons like Richard Branson. Neither of them can hold a candle to Howard Hughes. He wrote the book on billionaire businessmen with out-sized egos and the desire for more. Call it greed or something else. What compels these men? When is enough enough? Scorsese gets under the skin of Hughes, gives us a sense of what makes the man tick, sorts through the compulsive behavior, and delivers a picture that does what a movie is supposed to do – entertain.

The Aviator stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes. Too young you say? Not at all. Remember that Hughes was young when he went to Hollywood. Orson Welles young. He was a fresh-faced kid with a tinny voice and a smile that belied the determined cunning he would display in his knockabout battles with governments and corporations. DiCaprio gets Hughes down perfectly. His energy is focused. Acting is all in the eyes, and DiCaprio’s eyes brilliantly depict Hughes’ ardent willpower. They suggest force of personality and force of vision.

The movie opens with a brief prologue that touches on a character-defining moment in Hughes’ childhood. Remember it, because something from that scene recurs throughout the film. Again, Scorsese has the knack for choosing the telling moment, the key to a personality. Good art is about showing complexity with simplicity. After this opening, the movie literally dives into action. Airplanes buzz about, propellers spin, dust swirls, the camera sweeps. The screenplay by John Logan (he wrote Gladiator) takes us to the 1920s and the filming of Hell’s Angels, the expensive aerial epic that Hughes was financing with profits from his family’s tool company. The movie, which went through re-shoot after re-shoot and cost $4-million to make, would turn the twenty-something Hughes into a celebrity. He’s able to concentrate on his filmmaking because he’s hired a right-hand man for his business, the smart and affable Noah Dietrich (nicely played by John C. Reilly), who would stay loyal to Hughes for decades. Hughes even staged a premiere for Hell’s Angels on Hollywood Boulevard that would shame today’s publicity hucksters. The opening is a wildly dazzling event, supposedly the mob scene that inspired novelist Nathaniel West to write The Day Of The Locust. And we see it in all its overblown glory. Soon Hughes was dating glamour girls and spending time at famed Tinseltown nightclubs. Scorsese expertly captures the high energy and dazzling excitement of Hollywood in its heyday. In one scene, Jude Law pops in as dashing actor Errol Flynn, a cameo that works superbly.

But through Hughes’ rise to fame, we see the battle between his surface success and his inner demons. The guy won’t eat food that touches other food. He only drinks milk from a sealed glass bottle. He washes his hands again and again. He can’t touch bathroom doorknobs. He’s a bit of a loon, but a very lucky loon. He’s got the support staff and money to hid any number of tics. And when the OCD switch is turned off, he has sex with some very hot and very interesting women. Cate Blanchett is pitch perfect as Katharine Hepburn, actress, raconteur, and a bit of a nutcase herself. Kate Beckinsale does a nifty turn as Ava Gardner and has a beautiful scene late in the movie when she shows Hughes how much she understands the obsessive compulsive acts that cause him to hide out in his home for an extended period, terrified of germs and people and confrontation. There’s even a hint of what’s to come for the elderly Hughes, when we see him locked in his office, middle-aged and fearful, stark naked and starkly worried about that U.S. Senator who wants his scalp. Alan Alda acts the guy with villainous delight. Playing his partner in crime is Alec Baldwin as Pan Am’s honcho. Nobody does quiet malevolence better than Baldwin.

Through it all: the women, the fears, the glory, nothing can compete with Hughes truest love – aviation. The guy would battle the movie ratings board for the right to show Jane Russell’s breasts in their best light (he even designed a push-up bra for her to wear), but airplanes and air power never, ever took a back seat. Would his giant wooden transport plane, an invention of extremes, fly? Well, when push comes to shove, nothing takes a back seat to Hughes desire to prove his point. Not even a Senate hearing.

Overall, The Aviator is a mix of two elements. Firstly, it’s about the rise of aviation as a vital means of transportation and mode of travel. Secondly, it’s about the determination, vision, and emotional malaise of one individual. Blending newsreel footage, digital effects, and a point-of-view that never wavers, Scorsese delivers a series of truly spectacular aerial sequences. Directing his entire cast with a sure-hand, from DiCaprio to the smallest part, he makes everyone believable. Scorsese and Logan keep the storytelling clear-eyed. Dante Ferretti’s lavish production design, Sandy Powell’s wonderful costumes, and Howard Shore’s flawless musical score all contribute mightily to the movie’s success. And special praise has to go to Robert Richardson’s stunning, often beautiful cinematography.

One other key element in filmmaking is the editing. Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s longtime collaborator, edits The Aviator. She is as important to the success of the movie as any one person can be. Scorsese and Schoonmaker are a team. And this team has made a solidly entertaining movie.

Before we go any further we’d like to extend our apologies to Ms. Linstedt for using her fine report as a spring board for our satire. There’s “fair use” and then there’s “fair abuse.”

If you believe that corporate welfare amounts to legalized prostitution, especially in the area of government subsidies to retailers (a practice that was, a few short years ago, illegal for Industrial Development Agencies) you’ll probably think that this is a case of fair use. If you believe that the denigration of politicians has turned people off from politics, you might find this “new and improved” article is completely unfair. Fair or foul, keep in mind that it’s like we said, we’re only trying to have a little fun.

City officials go “fishing” for additional retailers

Fresh off landing in the brothel of new pimp, “Daddy” Bass Pro, a contingent of “Buffalo Gals” traveled to various New York City red light districts on Tuesday in search of additional “retail” tricks.

(“Retail” is sex industry slang for using business or government accounts to pay for sex. A john who “pays retail” is highly desirable because customers who are using embezzled funds can afford to be more generous. Whores that can assist clients in creating such slush funds help themselves and also their clients. )

Long time two dollar whore, Mayor Anthony M. Masiello joined “freshmeat” Timothy Wanamaker, head of the city's Office of Strategic Planning, and four development staff bitches in stalking “retail” prey at the International Council of Shopping Centers fall meeting in Manhattan.

"I'm here to tell our story of arousal and excitement, and we're getting a very warm reception," Masiello said with a wink. “Freshmeat” Wanamaker, who has represented Buffalo at past meetings of the group, said last week's “Daddy” Bass Pro announcement has increased interest in the area.

"There are key ‘retailer’ johns we've had difficulties getting a meeting with in the past, and now they want to see us," he said. "When you tell people “Daddy” Bass Pro is coming to town, it’s like Christmas: Ho, ho, ho! It opens doors.”

Masiello concurred, “It’s like Snoop said, we gonna pop it like it’s hard.”

Masiello said that as soon as these potential “clients” noticed his name tag, he was greeted with congratulations on his decision to hook up with his new pimp, “Daddy” Bass Pro.

"I probably had 15 people talk to me about it just walking through the lobby," he said. “It’s like getting a new set of boobs and showing your cleavage. This group lives and breathes ‘retail’, and they couldn't say enough good things about the impact of ‘Daddy’ Bass."

Masiello and Wanamaker had several set meetings with an undisclosed list of retailers, ranging from "big vagina" clients to upscale, specialty fetishists, as well as national “retail” brokers. Both whores expressed a mix of optimism and caution when they talked about attracting any of their targets to Buffalo.

"The good news is we're getting the propositions, but these deals take time and patience," Wanamaker said. "It could take two or three years to get a firm commitment, tap into the taxpayer’s wallet and set up these ‘retail’ accounts. These ‘retail’ johns force taxes to go way up, and taxes are sky high already. But on the bright side, we’ve always had the D.A. in our pocket, we just made a deal with the Attorney General, and we got plenty of ho’s ready to hit the street.”

Masiello’s input on this: “Word.”

“Retailers” looking to ride the coattails of “Daddy” Bass into Buffalo, he noted, will time their decisions to the Sportin’ Life “Daddy” Bass’s 2007 Sha-dizzlin’Throw Down. Pimpin!

Patrice Duker, spokestrumpet for the shopping center council, said public sector participation in the organization's retail meetings has been growing. The group's convention last spring in Vegas featured a keynote session on how to whore out the community interest through “public-private partnerships” (industry slang for intercourse and fellatio) that drew “two-dollar whore mayors,” like Masiello from 50 U.S. cities.

The event's "leasing mall," which features peep shows for retailers, developers and brokers, has grown to include a "municipal court," where cities and regions tout their charms and “show a little leg” to the ‘retail’ world.

"The private sector johns want to get laid, and the public sector ho’s wants growth that fits with their master plans and long-term growth strategies," Duker said. "It makes a lot of sense to get them talking to each other about price at the outset."

She also noted that, with “Daddy” Bass Pro in its future, Buffalo brings more to those conversations.

"It's instant brand recognition for Buffalo. Buffalo is famous for its political whores, already. It's a destination ‘retailer’, if there ever was one, that attracts a strong, dedicated core customer," Duker said. "When you can put a ‘Daddy’ Bass Pimpdom on the table, it lends credence to your pitch, absolutely."

In addition to telling ‘retailers’ about possibilities in Buffalo's Erie Canal Harbor entertainment neighborhood (euphemistically known as “Maiden Lane” in the early years of Buffalo’s rich history of prostitution) and the Main Street corridor (once home to numerous burlesques and bawdy houses), city representatives also are plugging the potential of Elmwood, Hertel and Jefferson avenues as ‘retail’ destinations.

Masiello noted that he was willing to, “Ho the whole damn thing out.”

For now, though, Masiello said, that Buffalo group's growing list of introductions should be considered a victory; more serious meetings would follow in the months ahead.

“This is much more than just another booty call,” Masiello said with evident satisfaction.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a bulldozer after I got through reading two days worth of articles in The Snooze about how public monies got poured down the drain faster than the stale beer at the Breckenridge Brew Pub that was last seen floating down the Colorado River sporting a big banner saying, “I got mine and I’m taking it with me.”

Not to be outdone by a fellow scribbler, Donn Esmonde, of the same Snooze, waded in and slammed Too Tall Tony for being a lousy basketball player and a failure to become a Rhodes Scholar and an intelligent mayor. At least, Heaney spread the failure to include the administration of former mayor Jimmy Griffin and didn’t mention how mediocre 3T was as a basketball player. In fact, Heaney didn’t mention any names connected to the disappearing funds, but he did manage to quote the beady-eyed, mustachioed troll who is the resident expert on all things governmental and heads an outfit called the Buffalo/Niagara Partnership/Enterprise.

Should it really surprise any of us that public monies disappear down rat holes dug by corporate elites and the politically connected? Our world’s history is a richly woven tapestry of corruption and scandals and the bold buccaneers who stole more with a slap on the back and a firm handshake than all of the armies since the time of Alexander. Our very own Empire State was an important player and training ground for generations of thieves since before the time of Aaron Burr. The legacy of Boss Tweed and Tammany politics lives on in Albany and in all of the little burgs that comprise our great state.

Reformers have risen from the pits of the political cesspool, promising to restore democracy and fair play and to restore trust in governmental functions, and the media, that great champion of the people, have shouted their huzzahs and have spread the mantle of honesty to the shoulders of those visionaries who will soon fall back into the slime from which they arose. Ah, yes, even the readers of history succumb to the sins of the past, and editors and writers seem to be at the greatest peril, excepting myself.

Dorothy and Toto are no longer in Kansas, and Alice has returned from Wonderland, but we are still imprisoned in a world of our own design. Why don’t we or why can’t we just admit that change is one thing that we refuse to accept. We are comfortable with the devils we know rather than with the idea of venturing into the unknown world of ethics and personal responsibility.

Fear not, brothers and sisters, the revelations embedded in Jim Heaney’s series appearing in The Buffalo News only serves to remind us of the immortal words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The great lamentations over the recent elections for various public offices should remind us forcefully that we are neither all on the same page nor do we read from the same book. George W. Bush is in and trees are out, and the war will continue, and the money will still flow into the subterranean coffers of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. How I wish that I could be tight with either one and proudly say, I got mine you’ll have to get your own. But, alas, I am too lazy to petition HUD or to smooch backsides in search of loot from Kellogg Brown and Root.

The calculus of individuals and human psychology does not allow for quantum leaps into perfection, so do not be amazed that one can be anything more than what he or she is. In other words, when choosing leaders, be assured that what you see is what you’ll get and, as the old cliché repeats, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Just relax, lean back, and remember that there will always be another election, and you can vote for the clown of your choice, maybe.

NYSNA, the union that represents the 900 registered nurses employed by the county and the medical center, said that the budget being considered this week by county officials would dismantle the healthcare system and create havoc for what remains:

* Fewer RN would mean longer waits at the emergency room.

* There would be no on staff at schools to check on children’s health or administer medications.

* Citizens would lose their safety net for protecting the public’s health in an emergency.

Starting this weekend and running through Tuesday – when the legislature votes on the budget – NYSNA will sponsor a radio advertising campaign to inform the public and persuade county officials to preserve public health funding.

About 60 nurses are assigned to school health and another 50 are in community clinics – working in areas such as primary care, maternal-child health, and sexually transmitted diseases.

NYSNA maintains that it is not appropriate to eliminate preventive and primary care services that have a proven track record for being more effective and less costly than hospitalization for preventable conditions. Clinics operated by the County Health Department have been a cost-effective alternative to emergency-room care. If the clinics are closed, it is uncertain that these same patients will find their way to access county services through the ER at ECMC.

County nurses also provide much needed health services in the schools that are so important, all schools are required to have similar services. Children need school nurses and the county has an experienced and qualified staff. NYSNA believes it is not appropriate to use these children in a political debate.

With more than 34,000 members, NYSNA is the oldest and largest state nurses’ association in the nation. It is an influential union for RNs, representing nurses in New York and New Jersey. Offering a wide range of services to its members, NYSNA fosters high standards of nursing education and practice and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. It is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and of the United American Nurses, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

—30—

Contact:
Mark Genovese (518) 782-9400, Ext. 353
Nancy Webber (518) 782-9400, Ext. 223


Ever since I was a four-year-old beginning reader, I have experienced the delights of the library. The treasures that I discovered in the library have given me an opportunity to travel through time and space. Via the wonders of books and my own imagination, I’ve gone to prehistoric times with Jean Auel, to outer space with Isaac Asimov, into the mind of a dictator with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, on amazing and heroic quests with Alexandre Dumas, and to so many other places and times and realities.

The treasures that I have discovered in the public libraries may be lost to Erie County residents. County Executive Joel Giambra’s “red budget” cuts funding for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system from a requested $29,154,123 to $6,082,879. The result would be that the entire system of 52 libraries would be forced to close on January 1, 2005. Borrowing from libraries will discontinue on December 7, 2004.

Busy Year for the Library

Buffalo and Erie County’s library system recorded a successful year for 2003 with 52 locations, mobile outlets, and remote access via the internet. According to the library systems website (www.buffalolib.org), nearly 350,000 people are regular customers of the library. The trend continues into 2004, with a six percent increase in circulation over 2003, a 24 percent increase in computer use, and a 12 percent increase in materials shipped among all of the library system’s locations.

The red budget, however, would decimate these services, said Michael Mahaney, director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system. It would provide “barely enough money to lay off the staff and lock the doors of all 52 libraries, including the central library.” Any remaining money would be used for climate control, to ensure that the pipes do not freeze in the vacated buildings.

Ironically, according to the Erie County Legislature, in a prepared handout to attendees at its four public hearings, $14 million has been budgeted for library supplies, including books, media, and capital projects.

“This is the first time in American history that an entire library system has been threatened with shut down. Sometimes individual libraries are shut. (Closing the libraries are) unthinkable things that our community should not have to contemplate. It is shocking and unacceptable,” Mahaney said.

What the Community Stands to Lose

The proposed closure of the library system is “taking the heart out of the community. It’s leaving the community an empty shell in a way that it never was before. We’re in so many different communities, and we serve so many people, who have limited options. I can’t imagine what they could find to fill the void. The library system is 168 years old. It has survived everything from a great depression through world wars. It is inconceivable to think that it could come to an end,” Mahaney said.

The things that would be lost include story hours, computer training, and free lunchtime concerts, as well as public access to the libraries’ vast storehouses of books, CDs, videos, and other materials. Rare books would be pulled from exhibition and would be placed in a vault for safekeeping.

Far More than a Job

Mahaney, 52, has found a career and a home amidst the books, videos, and CDs. Thirty-one years ago, he was hired to shelve books in the Central Library. In 1977, just after graduating from SUNY at Buffalo with a master’s degree in library science, Mahaney became a reference librarian. He has worked in administration since 1990 and has been the system’s director for two years.

The library system is where Mahaney said that he found his closest friends and where he first met his wife. Mahaney said, “I have affection and respect” for the libraries and for their staffs and patrons.

The library systems has been through difficult times in the past, Mahaney said. In 1976-1977, the system went through a fiscal crisis, which resulted in the layoff of 40 percent of its staff. “Back then, a lot of really bright, talented, capable people were laid off, and they left. They became the leaders of libraries around the country. I would hate to lose more talent and commitment to something like this. These are people who are not just library assets; they are community assets. Erie County will be poorer if they have to leave,” Mahaney said.

Mahaney said that he intended to finish his career in the library system in Erie County, a community that has been his lifelong home. If the library system closes, however, he would have to look for options out of town. “I can’t bear the thought of this collapsing around us. It’s one of the finest library systems in the country. This is the best staff that I’ve ever encountered anywhere. It would be shameful to allow this to die.”

Citizen Responses to Proposed Elimination of the Library System

On November 28, at Erie Community College’s South Campus in Orchard Park, more than ninety individuals addressed the many budget cuts that have been proposed by the red budget. Many of them discussed the public library system. Mercedes Russow, a retired teacher, wanted to know, “What kind of tumor in the brain caused this?” She said that the county executive has proposed “taking away everything that makes life worthwhile.”

Ed Arnold said that his two children go to the library twice a week and that his wife meets friends regularly in the library. He said that Erie County’s excellent library system is a factor that keeps his family in the area. His wife is a native of Poland and libraries are a high priority in that country. “In Poland, every town, no matter how poor, has a library.”

Joseph, who held his small daughter as he tearfully addressed the members of the Erie County Legislature, said that he had just been at the Angola branch of the library. He said that he “loves taking the baby to the library, the botanical gardens, and the zoo. “She goes to the botanical gardens every Sunday, and she runs up and down the steps.”

Marsha of Orchard Park said, “Libraries are not expendable. They are where community happens. At the library, you find the greatest diversity of people.” She said that she recently took a Microsoft Word class with a group of older people at the library.

Abraham (Abe) Kenmore, a nine-year-old home schooler from Clarence Center, said straightforwardly, “I really like libraries. I like to browse. I have lots of interests.” As an example of the value of libraries to him, Abe said that he recently became interested in the history of music and was able to borrow fifteen books on the subject. “It’s hard to buy books and have money left over.”

“Libraries are fun places,” Abe concluded.

In our estimation, this attempt to put the mayor out to pasture began in earnest with this month’s publication of James Heaney’s three-part series, which documented the Masiello administration’s squandering of federal aid money. We can wonder what took The News so long to identify the severity of the situation, but on the positive side, perhaps we should be saying better late than never.

Donn Esmonde has led The News in criticizing Masiello, but prior to the Heaney series, his columns always seemed to leave Tony with some wiggle room. Esmonde’s follow up column to the Heaney series, however, was blistering. Later that week, the editorial staff of The News published an editorial that was more genteel but essentially confirmed the obvious: The News will no longer continue to make excuses for Masiello. The Heaney series would never have been published as written if the editors at The News had any intention of allowing Tony to stick around for another four years.

We know from previous articles by Bob McCarthy, top political reporter for The News, that the business community has been desperately seeking an alternative candidate to support in next fall’s mayoral race. If Masiello does run, Byron Brown and Sam Hoyt will present him with determined competition for his job. Perhaps Joel Giambra’s prophecy that Tony will be the last mayor of Buffalo may be fulfilled with the elimination of the office altogether. Eliminating that office will take some doing, however.

Tony’s Discreet Charms Finally Wear Off

When we look back, there is something particularly odious about the fulsome lies and nauseous flattery that filled The Buffalo News’ copious editorials in praise of Tony in election years past. But then, certain power brokers wanted a Governor George Pataki-dominated control board in charge of the city’s finances. To arrive at that point, a good measure of malfeasance was necessary, and it’s obvious now that Masiello was equal to that task.

Several points need to be made about the Heaney series and Alt’s coverage of this story.

First off, when we attempted to obtain some of the information that Heaney presented, people in the local HUD office told us that no loans were in default. Then, our appeal to Washington for information on all current outstanding loans in full was returned as a partial list showing only good loans.

Grant + Loan = Groan

A source who wishes to remain anonymous and is very familiar with local development issues told Alt that this was merely a language issue. The Masiello terminology morphed the word “default” into “aging.” This is why there were no loans in default to be found.

This person related the following inside riddle about the Masiello crew’s chicanery: What do you call a cross between a grant and a loan? A groan. This little rib tickler implies that Masiello and company knew that, when they were gifting some of their developer friends with section 108 loans, there was an implicit understanding that they were really going to turn out to be grants in the long run. Hilarious, isn’t it?

The partial information that this person was able to provide us with about some of the defaulted Section 108 loans was largely confirmed by the Heaney series. Many questions remain, however. First and foremost on our minds is that if there were a pattern of deliberate abuse for political payoffs, why isn’t this a law-enforcement issue? Why isn’t anyone even thinking about bringing the mayor and his cronies up on charges? We published a story about a very similar situation in Hoboken, N. J., which resulted in several convictions. Are we in Buffalo more corrupt than the folks in New Jersey?

Heaney presents an array of information that the Masiello administration had kept quiet, particularly the abysmal record of the HUD Section 108 loan program.

Favored Developers and Political Influence There are points of interest that Heaney does not elaborate to our satisfaction, however. While the series avoids certain critical questions in our minds, we agree that it represents a good start in making people aware of what a terrible job the Masiello administration has done in managing federal aid intended to alleviate inner-city poverty, not to sock an already impoverished city government with even more debt.

A major problem with the series is that Heaney fails to mention developers by name, again and again. Who were these mysterious developers? Were they plugged into the mayor’s political campaign? Was there a pay to play understanding? Heaney sidesteps these questions.

Heaney failed to mention that the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation pumped more than a quarter million into the Pillar’s hotel AFTER it was clear that the hotel was in default. The medical corridor was not Tony’s brainchild. When it came time to secure capital for a pet project on the campus of Roswell Park, however, it’s doubtful as to whether Masiello could have refused or not. There was enormous political pressure to keep Roswell pumping money into political coffers, along with forecasts of irrational exuberance about the market for high-priced cancer treatment. No one questioned a government-sponsored hotel on the Roswell campus.

While naming several of these businesses and some developers, Heaney leaves some notable absences. He omits information on James Cosentino and Harry Williams, for example. Have they repaid their loans? There are ethical concerns with some of the recipients of Section 108 loans and their political and personal relationships with Masiello. Were these deals legal? Are there ethical violations that can be pursued against Masiello? Heaney fails to explore the nexus of political-business relationships that led to this sorry state of affairs and, therefore, in our opinion, misses the point of this story.

Bi-Partisan Complaints Are Ignored

Heaney shows that even a community activist such as Kim Harman and a Business big shot such as Andrew Rudnick can agree that Masiello has done a horrible job with the Section 108 program. This kind of agreement across the political spectrum is unusual these days. You would think that this would not bode well for any effort to re-elect Tony next year, but Tony doesn’t seem to be too concerned. "I wish we had more private-sector investment. It's coming in dribs and drabs, but it's coming," Masiello told The News.

Tony is satisfied.

Tony wishes that there were business investment. It’s coming at some point in the future. Didn’t Heaney ask for comment on specific deals? In how many instances did section 108 loans result in significant investment in nearby properties? We don’t know because Masiello was not challenged on his assertion that many projects had significant spin-off.

Banko: Fox/Hen Housing Arrangement Not to Blame

Heaney stated, “The loans must be approved by the Common Council, development agencies controlled by the mayor, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cities are responsible for paying them off, using block grant funds, in the event a developer defaults.”

This is pretty accurate. The system of checks and balances, however, was not as rigorous as it might first appear. The mayor had allies in the Common Council and, since block grant funding was important to the pet projects of councilmembers, there was little resistance to the mayor’s section 108 initiatives. In addition, after Masiello Chief of Staff Steve Banko was put in charge of HUD, there was no longer an arm’s length negotiating distance. In effect, the mayor’s 108 loans were generally rubber stamped.

Banko’s statements are enlightening: "The problem in Buffalo is developers have it backwards… Everywhere else, they put the deal together, get what they can from private sources, and come to the government if they have a gap. In Buffalo, they all come to the city first – ‘what can you give me?’ - then they go get their financing." Is this because developers here are a breed apart, or is this because they know that this is the way the game is played?

Banko’s explanation shifts the blame from the Masiello administration, of which he was an integral part, and onto the community as a whole. It’s the culture of Buffalo that’s the problem, not the specific funding decisions that were made. We share communal guilt and change is unlikely. The “they” to whom Banko refers aren’t really identified by name. “They” are the same developers whom Heaney, for the most part, does not mention by name. From our experience, “they” are often the same people who supported Masiello and are an integral part of the political process. “They” are frequently hostile to outside investors out of fear of losing control of local development money that the mayor has spent so generously.

Tony’s Theme: A Legacy of Learned Helplessness

"Many of these (section 108 loans) were gap financing; no one else wanted to help," Masiello told The News.

The other way to look at this lavish lending is as politically driven. Masiello’s so-called “gap financing” statement was made to avoid the embarrassment of default. Loans made to the right people were allowed to “age” gracefully. In accounting terms, this is called knowingly presenting a false picture of financial information to investors. What do we call this in Buffalo? Heaney calls it “a half billion dollar bust,” which is a surprisingly polite euphemism for fraud, if you think about it.

The last article in Heaney’s series concerned the Masiello administration’s bad debts in the Theatre District. We here at Alt lovingly refer to the 600 Block of Main Street as Mayor Masiello’s “Potemkin Village.” The term came from a Russian politico, Grigori Potemkin, who created fake villages at huge expense to show Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, how happy and prosperous the peasants were. The peasants in Russia, like their modern Buffalonian counterparts, were neither prosperous nor happy with the hand that was dealt them by their imperial overseers. As Masiello himself said a few years ago, “We need a revolution.”

Casino Buffalo – Chairman Masiello’s Long March Continues

Masiello’s idea of revolution appears to be more of the same, however. There are more section 108 loans being queued up. Heaney reported that, “One, of about $3 million, would be used to redevelop Central Park Plaza. Plans to convert Memorial Auditorium into a Bass Pro store call for a $7.3 million loan through the Section 108 program, plus an additional $2 million through another program.”

Heaney didn’t mention that Bass Pro has ties to casino gambling, in Las Vegas or that certain power brokers, such as Carl Paladino, would like to see a casino in downtown Buffalo. If this is going to be Tony’s last term, he might as well go out with one last big “Ka-ching” for himself and all of those friends of his whom no one else seems to want to help.

This could bring abuse of the Section 108 program up to a whole new level. Heaney reminds us in his first installment of this series that the HUD program was supposedly intended to alleviate poverty. How a massive fishing superstore (and possibly an inner city casino) would accomplish this goal is a mystery. Maybe it’s all part of Tony’s revolution. Pull quotes: “Loans made to the right people were allowed to ‘age’ gracefully.”

“ ‘They’ are often the same people who supported Masiello and are an integral part of the political process. ‘They’ are frequently hostile to outside investors out of fear of losing control of local development money…”

Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland, was awarded military contracts for fiscal 2003 totaling more than 69 billion dollars. Its campaign contributions in 2002 were more than nine million dollars, so the return on the initial investment is more than reasonable. That year, Lockheed Martin CEO Vance Coffman collected a hefty 25 million dollar salary. Lockheed Martin manufactures F-16 and F/A-22 jet fighters, the world-famous C-130 Hercules transport plane, and the lethal Hellfire and Javelin missiles. Hellfire missiles have been used to whack terrorists from the Gaza Strip to the Khyber Pass and beyond.

Next in line and always a contender, we have Boeing. Now headquartered in Chicago, this giant aircraft maker generated 60 billion in government business in 2003. But Boeing was a bit savvier than Lockheed Martin; it only had to shell out four million dollars in campaign contributions. Phillip Condit, the CEO, collected a measly four million in salary. The stockholders must be pleased, as the number for both companies seem to wash each other out. Boeing manufacturers the F-15, C-17 transport plane, the Apache Helicopter, and numerous brands of “smart” bombs, that somehow managed to wipe out mostly the wrong targets.

But to be fair, these two blue-chip name companies, in the market for decades, are the 800-pound gorillas of arms manufacturing global corporations. They have produced some of the most famous combat aircraft of all time, and they sell to clients all over the globe. They proudly put their cost-over runs out in the open for everyone to see, and war profiteering to them has been propagandized into nothing more than the cost of R & D and doing business the American Way. Milo Minderbinder would be proud.

These companies didn’t necessarily have to ride the hysterics, uncertainty, and fear of post 9/11 to make millions. But there is one company that did.

Custer Battles

I am not making this up. The name of the company IS Custer Battles. Two Army veterans, Scott Custer and Michael Battles, established this business in October 2001. These two thirty-something entrepreneurs had little experience in private security. But Mike Battles had political experience, having been a former Republican Congressional candidate in Rhode Island. He and Custer set up shop in McClean, Virginia, and then headed to Washington and the Pentagon to make their fortune. They were lucky or good or connected, because in June 2003, they won a 16.5 million dollar deal to guard Baghdad International Airport. Having no troops of their own, they ended up by hiring Nepalese mercenaries, the guys with the knives, who had served in the British Army’s Gurkha Regiments. Using folks from Nepal has become popular. At $1,000 U.S. a month, they are paid less, even poorly, than the average merc. But take look at the map. Nepal is in the middle of the Himalayas, where jobs are few and not even Wal-Mart has a foothold. For some soldier-of-fortune wannabees, this could be the ticket to sea-level. It was the first major contract for the security neophytes. Since then, Custer Battles has generated more than $100 million in deals. One contract calls for that company to train the newly formed and since unraveling Iraqi Army, but then EVERYONE has a contract to train the Iraqi Army. Another contract has the company protecting the new currency in Iraq.

Custer Battles’ Last Stand??

The company is now charged with over charging the Federales by tens of millions of dollars. Made public on October 8, a lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act. The U.S. Air Force alleges that Custer Battles marked up invoices by as much as 162 percent. The Pentagon has banned the company from any further government contracts under the matter is resolved.

Custer Battles Calls the Charges “Baseless”

The above-mentioned currency protection amounts to little more than well-armed payroll guards, but it can get tricky. Last December, British-based Global Risk Strategies, a well-known private military contractor, was contracted to oversee a portion of the changeover of Iraq’s currency from that of the former regime. On December 1, Fiji mercenaries (that’s right, I said Fiji mercenaries) hired by Global Risk randomly opened fire after a currency changeover convoy in their charge came under attack. Ten Iraqi civilians were killed, and dozens were wounded. Fijian mercenaries are also popular to hire, as they contract out at the aforementioned $1,000 U.S. a month. I was unaware that Fiji had any military tradition whatsoever.

While the Fijians’ military skills may or may not be in question, their skill as negotiators certainly is. As mercenaries go, they are definitely bottom feeders. A thousand dollars a month is less that chicken feed. At the top of the mercenary heap are the British and the South Africans. No self-respecting ex-Special Air Service (SAS) operative would strap on a weapon for less than a $1,000 U.S. A DAY. Not to be outdone, American firms are working hard to close the gap. Black Water Corp., based in North Carolina, is staffed by ex-U.S. Special Forces, SEALs, and Army Rangers. These fellows also know how the Pentagon works when it comes to payroll and potential risk. Convoy escort duty in a nasty place such as Fallujah can get downright dangerous. Black Water is paying its troops as much a $1,500 U.S. a day. Of course, Black Water bills Uncle Sam and the American taxpayer. Black Water also has hired 60 Chilean ex-commandos. But salaries for them remain unclear.

The amount of money up for bid is staggering. The details are hard to come by, but the latest estimate is that, of the last $18.6 billion dollars that the Bush administration has shelled out for Iraq reconstruction, 25 percent will be used for to pay security companies. No wonder the Iraqi mercenary gold rush was on. David Claridge, managing director of the Risk Advisory Group, has said that annual revenue has increased for just the Brits to more than $1.7 billion U.S. Risk Advisory Group, a company that advises governments and leading businesses on security matters, is one of many British private military contractors cashing in on the Iraq reconstruction bonanza.

The contracts have gotten so lucrative that many soldiers on both sides of the Atlantic are taking stock. Many have left the service (before the stop loss orders went into effect) and have returned to Iraq as private employees. The risks are indeed the same, but the pay is much better. Of course, you can’t get paid if you are dead.

Many private soldiers take the money and run; there is no contractual obligation for them to put themselves in harm’s way. The U.S. taxpayer is left to pay the bill.

A Thousand Clowns tells the story of Murray Burns, a recently unemployed writer for a children’s television show, who has been taking care of his delightfully precocious 12-year-old nephew Nick. When Arnold and Sandra from Child Welfare Services get involved in their lives, the antics of Murray and his nephew turn into a roller coaster of side-splitting humor as Murray faces the possibility of having to give up his freedom and return to a job that he loathes.

Michael Milligan, who plays Murray Burns, was last seen this past summer playing Orlando in As You Like It. Micheal Milligan’s Murray is the perfect blend between whimsical jester and tragic clown, reminiscent of Red Skelton. He is truly a joy to watch as he meanders around the stage showcasing his skill in the realm of physical comedy. The chemistry between Milligan and the rest of the cast is phenomenal as the other characters feed his delightful larking about. Also impressive is Brad Bellamy in the role of Leo Herman. Herman acts both as children’s performer “Chuckles the Chipmunk” and as Murray’s ex-employer. Returning for his tenth production at Studio Arena, he flamboyantly portrays the pathetic egotist and offers yet another layer of raucous laughter to pie. Stan Klemenko, a Niagara Falls native and Studio Arena alum, adds another delightful element as child welfare worker Albert Amundson. He rounds out the cast, providing an element of dichotomy to the free spirited Murray Burns. His depiction of the socially repressed bureaucrat is right on the mark and highlights the play’s theme of the desperation that lies in social conformity. Michael Dentico and Christopher Piedmonte, students of the Academy of Theater Arts in Williamsville, share the role of Nick. A Thousand Clowns also stars Christine Marie Brown and Kevin Carolan.

Performances of A Thousand Clowns continue through December 23 and will prove to be a delightful holiday treat for the whole family. Ticket prices range from $31to $52 and can be purchased by phone at (716) 856-5650 or 1 (800) 77STAGE and online at www.studioarena.org.

As is true of most successful 21st century businesses, much of The Abbey Grange traffic comes via the internet (www.abbeygrange.com). A large basket of outgoing packages were bundled near the door when I arrived, waiting for shipment the next day. Packages will go all over the world, to such places as the United Kingdom, South Africa, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and, of course, throughout Europe and the United States. Spain has been his most recent bulk consumer, ordering mysteries of all persuasions. Rich, a former educator, is excited about his new business, and his wife, Tracy Van Patten-Sawicki, who works for the American Red Cross, shares this excitement. His daughter Martha, a high school senior, is the Abbey Grange’s interior decorator. She’s creating a warm, comfortable environment that sets the stage for Rich’s. It is a hospitable shop where customers sit around, coffee cups in hand, to browse through books and newspapers from all over the world. Eventually, you will even be able to bring in your laptops. Finally, there is Eli, a sixth grader who makes his contribution in enthusiasm and ideas.

When you visit the little shop on Lexington and chat with Rich, you know that it is a place where you will shop, meet friends, and “hang out” for years to come. Why not start this holiday season? What better way to think globally and shop locally than in a new neighborhood bookstore?

PAST WORK EXPERIENCE:
I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland, Texas in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money. With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS
I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America. I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money. I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.
With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS PRESIDENT:
I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of *over one billion dollars per week*.
I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury. I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history. I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market.
In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month. I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President. I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
One of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History, Enron.
My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.
I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history.
I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed. I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history. I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts. I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history. I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government. I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history. I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission. I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law. I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention. I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election). I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television. I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period.
After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
I garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history. I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.
I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.
I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families -- in wartime. In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends. I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security. I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.
During the Iraq War and Occupation thousands of American troops were injured and killed. I did not have the time to attend any of the funerals for our fallen soldiers but I did have the time to attend more than 43 fund-raising events of the Republican party

RECORDS AN REFERENCES:
All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view. All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. provided by alexander graham

Ostrowski noted the irony of how the politicians expect us to support this project when it is shrouded in secrecy and the details have not been made known. “Even the time and place of the Governor’s press conference has not been disclosed,” Ostrowski said. “I guess they don’t want real live citizens showing up to rain on their corporate welfare parade.”

Ostrowski also noted that as some information about the project trickles out, we find that this is not just a deal to promote economic development, but one which strengths the role of big government in our lives. “The city gets to own more parking ramps; our bloated and inefficient transportation monopolies get an expensive new station; and the State gets the Aud. The corporate welfare model gets more firmly entrenched. Anyone who thinks this a movement away from big government and toward the free market is sadly deluded.”

Here are some excerpts from Ostrowski’s report:

“Nor will any other current politicians do anything to turn this place around. They are all clueless. They don’t know what the problem is and so naturally they don’t have a solution. So they revert to selfish careerism, the operating principle of politics around here since the great Grover Cleveland left town. They focus on quick-fixes (one percent sales tax increase), public relations gimmicks (regionalism), and magic bullets (Bass-Pro) that will single-handedly save the day, or rather con the public into so thinking. It’s a sporting goods store, for Pete’s sake.”

“We’ve seen this kind of nonsense during the entire forty-five year period of Buffalo’s decline. It allows the politicians to get re-elected enough times to reach the magic age of fifty-five, at which time they can start collecting their outrageous pensions, a reward for doing absolutely nothing good for their communities in their entire careers!”

“The Bass Pro deal that conservative-turned-liberal George Pataki has put together will not rescue Buffalo. Any benefit from giving Bass Pro $66 million in public money or benefits will come at the expense of $66 million in losses to the taxpayers. Anyone who can’t grasp this after it is explained is, I am sorry, just plain stupid! Unless money grows on trees, that money has to be seized from taxpayers who would have spent it on their most urgent needs in voluntary free market transactions.”

“Stealing all that money from taxpayers will destroy jobs. The jobs Bass Pro will create are artificially subsidized and may well disappear without further subsidies. The record of government-subsidized jobs is atrocious. Huge amounts of money are spent per job and those jobs very often disappear later. Any questions?”

“Here’s a list of the magic bullet projects the politicians said would turn Buffalo around but never did:

• Urban renewal
• The subway line
• The theater district
• Subsidized construction of office buildings and hotels downtown
• The baseball stadium
• The convention center
• Marine Midland Arena
• The Adelphia Project (never got off the ground)
• The Medical Campus (in the works)”

“The failure of these projects proves factually what I have already proven theoretically: seizing small amounts of money from hundreds of thousands of taxpayers for use in concentrated form for a politically-chosen project will always fail—except to line the pockets of the developers and politicians and their errand boys and girls.”

“One of the problems with Buffalo is that we keep rewarding failure so long as it hath the power to assume a pleasing shape.”

“To sum up, the corporate welfare schemes our politicians are addicted to fail because they suck the energy out of the far corners of the market economy and concentrate that energy in one place and time where it can do the most good for the politicians. After the press conferences are over and the consultants, lawyers, and power brokers have been richly paid off, these projects are left to face the harsh reality that they are not sustainable in the free market. Their costs exceed their revenues. Duh! That’s why they need a subsidy in the first place. The choice then is to either keep subsidizing them—stupidly sending good money after bad—or abandon them. A grim prospect but the politicians don’t give a damn because they are long gone by then, spending our pension funds in warm weather climes to avoid our high taxes.”
But there’s nothing cheery about CHEERS. The acronym is deliberately misleading and, when examined, downright scary. This time, the government is protecting an unethical study that actually exposes children, including babies, to some of the chemical industry’s most noxious poisons. Who is the EPA protecting? The health of American children? Or the profits of American corporate interests?

Parents of children in the CHEERS study must agree to routinely spray or have pesticides sprayed inside their homes during the two-year study period, according to Chemical & Engineering News. Chemical concentrations will be measured in air, dust, and urine samples of the children, and by analyzing chemicals absorbed in clothing before and after pesticide applications.

The chemicals EPA and their corporate partners want to expose these kids to are already known to cause serious health problems. Along with pesticides, which are known to damage neurological and reproductive development, the study includes phthalates, (chemicals used to soften plastics). Phtalates have been linked in animal studies to damage to kidneys and liver and are considered a probable human carcinogen.

EPA also wants to expose Florida kids to brominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants). Animal studies indicate that these chemicals may harm neurodevelopment, and a recent study determined of exposure of these chemicals to fetal and newborn mice showed a permanent effect on spontaneous behavior, learning, and memory. Still another chemical category under CHEERS is perfluorinated chemicals, which have shown a statistically significant association with bladder cancer.

In return, the parents of the young test subjects will receive up to $970 and a free video camcorder for participating. And, revealing their target demographic of infants, they are offering a ‘study bib’. A review of the protocol, however, suggests that they won’t receive health care, during or after the study. In fact, the study seems to entirely ignore any potential for serious injury to any of its participants. Participation of the Centers for Disease Control and Florida’s County Health Department appear to be only window dressing.

If it’s not already obvious why this study must be stopped, consider the following. Floridians are already dispraportionally burdened by toxins. Due to the state’s humid conditions, it uses fungicides extensively—some reports claim that Florida’s fruits and vegetables can be sprayed with 5 or more active ingredients shown to be male reproductive toxins in animal studies, and the cause of birth defects. Adding additional pesticides and chemicals to the already overburdened bodies of Florida’s children raises additional serious health issues. According to EPA's own Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment, children receive 50 percent of their lifetime cancer risks in their first two years of life. And because children are growing, they are more vulnerable than adults to toxins. Nonetheless, EPA is proceeding to add a prescription of select poison to the infants used in this study.

Furthermore, EPA’s study is inherently unethical because children cannot legally give their consent to participate in such experimentation. CHEERS directly violates the Nuremberg Code Directives for Human Experimentation arising from world condemnation of the Nazis’ experimentation on human subjects without their consent. Using children without their consent violates their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. Moreover, this study suggests that participating parents are fully informed and competent to rely on the judgment of the individuals conducting the study or applying the pesticides on their own behalf as well as for their babies. Furthermore, the use of government funds to underwrite such tests may create a liability to the government (and the American people) for any future problems attributable to the study.


There may be a glimmer of hope. A recent release was sent out from EPA advising that the study had been suspended while study protocol was reviewed. However nowhere has it stated it's been cancelled, or stopped.

A New York Supreme Court Justice Edward Greenfield ruled in T.D. v The NYS Office of Mental Health (1995), "Parents may be free to make martyrs of themselves, but it does not follow that they may make martyrs of their children." The promise of $970 and a camcorder to potentially permit parents to cripple their infant children leads to the inescapable conclusion that the subjects of the CHEERS study are uneducated, poor and vulnerable.

When the government’s protection agencies fail to protect our children, we, as citizens, must insist that they do the right thing. This unconscionable study must be stopped.

----------------------
References

Concern over "Phthalates"In Food Packaging – plasticizers Paper, Film, & Foil Converter, Feb 1, 2003 by Richard M. Podhajny (COPYRIGHT 2003 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group)

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Maternal and Fetal Blood Samples

Anita Mazdai,1 Nathan G. Dodder,2 Mary Pell Abernathy,1 Ronald A. Hites,2 and Robert M. Bigsby1 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; 2Department of Chemistry and School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Proposal for Regulations on PFOS-Related Substances Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment prepared for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Chemicals and GM Policy Division in association with BRE Environment, September 2004




For further information:

Robina Suwol, Executive Director
California Safe Schools
Box 2123
Toluca Lake, California 91610
www.calisafe.org
818-785-5515
The Juliet Dagger in concert is a force to be reckoned with.

The “Daggers” just may be one of the finest local bands to step out onto the national scene in recent years. Although their fame has not yet surpassed that of Buffalo favorites Ani DiFranco or the Goo Goo Dolls, they are slowly teetering on the edge of something great.

The Daggers returned home from a West Coast tour, just in time to play a packed Nietzsche’s on Nov. 5. The crowd was varied, yet dedicated and eager, although shy to listen to the band’s hard candy sound.

The band consists of Erin Roberts, lead vocalist and guitarist; Leisha Gray, bassist; and the lone male, Josh Heatley, on drums. These kids get together with their overwhelming talents to produce one hell of a show. They combine their individual energies, with Roberts burning the mic, Heatley killing the drums, and Gray cradling the bass, to form a scathing, ripping punk outfit.

The show featured many tracks from the band’s new CD, “Turn Up the Death.” Songs had consistent beats and rhythms, yet mixed each other up with different feels. You could see how tight and polished this band was becoming. The third song, “Only Love,” featured a reminiscence of a ‘50s bop. Think a twisted, fish-netted Ricki Lake in Hairspray.

The remake of “Our Lips Are Sealed” proved a true crowd pleaser. Yet, this song also provoked a grim response from Roberts.

“Just so you know, Hillary Duff did not write that song,” she said. “We recorded ours for the CD, and then this remake of hers just came out.”

By far, the best song on their new CD and of the show itself was the biting “Stab,” which probably causes grief for Heatley but encourages him to play even harder and crazier.

“This song is for boys we love and sometimes want to stab at the same time,” Roberts explained into the microphone.

“Stab” is a short song, fewer than two minutes in length, but it ferociously showcases the pure musical power of this band. It shows the band’s true working dynamic to combine together as a single unit with super fast play and chaos, producing a track very close to perfection. The extreme changes in tempo provide the most excellent script for disdain and disappointment, seething with climatic energy.

This band has truly emerged with only about a year or so of play together under its collective belts. They bring something true and clean to not only the Buffalo music scene, but the pop-punk scene in general. The Juliet Dagger may visualize pink daydreams, but it warps its image with hard dark rock roots.

A much better movie is Sideways, a road movie, of sorts, in which two guys, seeking a respite of male bonding before the marriage of one of them, head to California wine country. Sideways was a much-talked-about hit at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and it’s worth seeing. Paul Giamatti is Miles, a hapless middle school English teacher whose marriage has failed, whose novel may or may not be published, and whose life is only a tad better than that of a sad sack. His pal Jack, Thomas Haden Church, is a television actor who now does mostly commercial voiceovers and he’s soon to be married. Jack decides that a jaunt into wine country with his best bud is what both of them need, and he has high hopes that he can get Miles laid. And that’s the movie as directed by Alexander Payne and co-written by Payne and Jim Taylor from the novel by Rex Pickett. The fellows meet some women (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh), learn a lot about wine (as does the audience), and learn something about themselves. Sideways is sweet, gentle, lightly comic, and one of the best films of the year and highly recommended.

Wine also flows in Alexander, the week’s mega-opening, and it’s unfortunate that the movie doesn’t flow as well. I’ve always admired director Oliver Stone’s work and salute his obvious courage in taking on big issues. He has a storyteller’s gift for melding action and ideas. So it’s unfortunate that I have to report that Alexander is less than the sum of its parts. It’s not a complete success, but it is ambitious and risky. Stone has long been fascinated by Alexander The Great, a young cub who conquered the known world, carving out an empire from Greece to India. The director has things he urgently wants to say about Alexander, but this eagerness outshines the film’s muddled narrative. There are provocative ideas and moderately successful set-pieces, but the movie seems less than a complete draft. The film doesn't feel comfortable with itself. It says a lot, and yet there’s a lot left unspoken. Stone’s personal passion for the subject isn’t captured on screen.

The biggest problem is that in spite of a nearly three hour running time, this sincere movie fails to find a focus for its elusive subject. Stone seems primarily fascinated by two aspects of Alexander’s life: his nationalism and his sexuality. He shows him trying to unite many tribes under a single rule – his. He seems to believe in a One World point-of-view. And we get hints of his willingness to have sex with men. But Stone – obviously forced by the studio – tones done much of the relationship between Alexander and his closest friend Hephaistion, a strikingly beautiful lad, played by the strikingly beautiful Jared Leto, who is always lurking in the shadows, ready to hug and be hugged, but the two are never shown passionately kissing. It’s a cop-out Stone should have stopped in its tracks. In Alexander’s time, men bedded men and nobody cared.

We never really get a fix on whether or not Alexander has united the people his armies have overrun. The movie delivers little depth here. Do those he conquered like Alexander, welcome his rule, care about anything? In fact, they seem like mystery people – crowds of extras without substance. The movie is shockingly void of details. Oh, there’s all the typical pomp and circumstance, but what’s really going on with all the murkiness involving the gay sex, with Alexander’s relationship with his “barbarian” bride with the weird kinship with his angry mother, played with slinky feline undertones by a wildly beautiful Angelina Jolie, who looks like she could eat Alexander and his armies for breakfast? Jolie’s performance revs up the classic 1950s sword and sandal campiness. As for the narration from the character of Ptolemy, it goes on and on and on and is filled with so much detail that you practically fear a pop quiz at the end of the movie. As for Anthony Hopkins’ acting as Ptolemy, well, phoning it in doesn’t begin to describe what Hopkins yawns his way through.

The facts are quickly summarized. Alexander, weakly played by a very miscast and dreadfully uninteresting Colin Farrell. is the son of Philip of Macedonia (a blustery Val Kilmer) and Queen Olympias (Jolie). As a boy, Alexander sees his drunken father virtually rape his mother, who for her part insists the kid’s actual father is Zeus, but she doesn’t fill in the details. Nothing like a little delusion to keep everyone guessing. Little Alexander impresses his father by taming a wild horse, but both mother and son are banished from the kingdom, Olympias advises her son to seize the throne before Philip has him murdered. As things work out, Philip is murdered, and Alexander rules Macedonia. Told by Aristotle (a furry Christopher Plummer) where the known world ends, Alexander discovers in his bloody travels that the world keeps on going and he keeps on conquering. He defeats the Greek city states, the Persians, and all the other folks he encounters until he is finally defeated in India. He dies at age 32. The battle sequence in India with the charging elephants is stunning. The earlier battle sequence at Gaugamela is a bore. It’s blurred by so much dust and sand that it never jells into anything spectacular.

In Stone’s version, Alexander seems incredibly open-minded for a tyrant. There are many, many scenes in which he argues goals and strategy with members of his army. He marries an Asian instead of choosing a Greek girl. He spends eight years in battle, taking with him his army, their families and lovers, their servants and households, in a sort of traveling sideshow of an empire. And always waiting in the shadows is Hephaistion. We are told by Ptolemy that in ancient times, powerful men often took males as their lovers, reserving women for childbearing and acting the accessory – sort of like human jewelry. Alexander seems to be following that tradition to the extent that the studio will permit it. Hephaistion doesn’t even go through the motions of taking a wife; he is always there for Alexander, but for what? They often have the look what might lead into a love scene before it fades out. The rest of the time, they do all that hugging.

As for Alexander's sex life with Roxane (Rosario Dawson), it shouldn’t surprise you that we see a great deal more of her body than Hephaistion’s. Alexander and Roxane have one fiery sex scene that begins with her fighting him off and ends with them engaged in the kind of feral passion where you fear somebody might get bloodied. So basically, they have great sex – at least once. Then we learn that three years pass, and she provides no male heir, although for how little we see of them together, the fault may belong to the Gods.

It's clear enough that Alexander loves Hephaistion and has married Roxane as a political gesture. In that case, it’s a serious miscalculation on Stone’s part to make Hephaistion into an alluring sideline figure who specializes in significant glances – you know, those glances - the significance of which the movie really doesn’t explore. Stone doesn’t have the courage to make Hephaiston as erotic a character as Roxane; therefore, he’s not really following the trail of the story. And then there’s that wacky nonsensical flashback literally tossed into the middle of the narrative involving Philip that doesn’t seem like a flashback at all, but more like material switched from its place in the chronology and inserted later to clarify what Stone’s thinks we might have misunderstood. It sticks out like a badly edited sore thumb. I even quietly commented on it to my seat partner.

As it nears its conclusion, Alexander slows down and peters out. There’s old Ptolemy pontificating about something or other and tying up very loose ends. At this point at the screening I attended, the audience was already starting to head for the exits. Ultimately, the movie is too long for what it delivers, which really isn’t all that much. It’s glossy, but shallow. Stone and company opted to temper the emotional with superficiality.

Here are four movies you never saw playing Buffalo; in fact, they might only have played Los Angeles and New York and then avoided ALL of those red states in between. The films are from Strand Releasing, one of the best distributors of offbeat, quirky, and fascinating independent features on the entire planet.

What’s great about DVD and Home Video is the staggering availability of titles you never saw; if you even heard about them. Although there’s nothing like seeing a movie in a theater, seeing a movie at home doesn’t have to be second best, especially if the film is worthwhile and hard-to-find.

The four movies in question are from Great Britain, Thailand, South Africa, and Israel. Their themes are varied and the quality of the filmmaking in all cases is solid. These are not cheesy straight-to-video efforts, but examples of national cinemas that have huge followings in their home countries.

New Year’s Day is from the United Kingdom and it focuses on two teenagers who have to reassess everything that’s important in their lives. On a school ski trip, an avalanche kills a teacher and a group of students, leaving two 16-year old boys as distraught sole survivors. The two are beset with guilt, a pressing survivor’s guilt that shrouds them with despair and angry feelings they’ve never before experienced. Hostility overtakes them; then remorse, and soon their young lives become a rollercoaster of emotions. If things don’t improve, they want to die and make a pact to commit suicide on the next New Year’s Day. This is a tough movie, honest and resolutely open about communication and dread. A popular hit at the Sundance Film Festival, the feature was a huge success in its native U.K. The very well-acted picture stars Andrew Lee Potts, Bobby Barry, and two powerhouse women of the movies: Marianne Jean-Baptiste and the legendary Jacqueline Bissett. It’s directed by Suri Krishnamma from a screenplay by Ralph Brown, most noted as one of the actors in Withnail And I, the comic hit from 1987. New Year’s Day is well worth tracking down.

You don’t have to have seen The Iron Ladies to have some fun watching The Iron Ladies II. This is the high-energy sequel to the colorful saga of an almost exclusively gay/transgendered team of social misfits who have taken on legendary status in both the world of sports and in the gender wars. Call it Bad News Bears Meets Club Marcella. Incorporating fabulism, hilarious comedy, and defiant queer sweat, the talented Ladies rose to prominence winning the national volleyball championship of Thailand. The gist of the new movie is that the hunkiest player on the Ladies team – yes, drag queens can be hunks, abandons the club to start a rival team. So the Ladies go on a whirlwind adventure to China to woo out of retirement a former player who is now a fabulous cabaret star. This really is one of those movies you have to see to believe. But trust me on this one, it’s so well-made and so cleverly directed that it works on a number of levels including, sexual politics, sportsmanship, and the value of loyalty and friendship. The enjoyable movie is written and directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon and is in Thai with English subtitles. It’s a hoot.

From South Africa comes a true story and a thrilling one at that. Proteus was an official selection at both the Toronto and Berlin International Film Festivals. The tough-as-nails movie offers a highly combustible combination of sex, race, and politics. And you know what politics was like in South Africa in the 1700s. It wasn’t pretty. Among the inmates in a notorious South African prison are two men. One of the men is Claas Blank, an intelligent black soul whose people have been enslaved by colonial rule. He’s been unjustly imprisoned for stealing cattle. The other man is a mysterious and withdrawn Dutch sailor, Rijkhaart Jacobz, who is in jail for the crime of being homosexual. In eighteenth century South Africa the idea that these two men would begin a sexual affair in a Cape Town penal colony is tantamount to drawing a death sentence, but they do. The movie proceeds with power and quite a few jolts to the psyche. Proteus stars Rouxnet Brown as Claas and Neil Sandilands as the Dutchman. Both deliver solid performances. The rest of the cast is up to the task of this very strong little movie. It’s co-written and co-directed by superstar Canadian filmmakers John Greyson (Lillies and Zero Patience) and Jack Lewis. Be careful when seeking this out. There are other movies called Proteus, but look for this one from 2003. The movie is in English and in Afrikaans and Nama (the native languages are subtitled).

Neglected children often make for interesting central characters in foreign films. From Israel comes Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, a terrific drama about a teenage boy who has a secret that eventually comes out. The lad has hidden smarts, but he’s so introspective that no one knows, not even his family. Shlomi lives with his overly excitable and essentially useless mother and a very ill grandfather. He has an offbeat musician brother who provides little support. Shlomi also has a sister who has twin children and is married to a sex-obsessed guy who can’t stay off the internet. Although he’s not doing well in school, Shlomi is a truly gifted cook and takes care of virtually all of the household chores. He is the primary – and wondrously loving caregiver - for the elderly grandpa. One day, the school’s principal discovers that Shlomi might actually be a math prodigy, even a genius, and tries to get him into a more suitable curriculum. However, Shlomi is more interested in taking care of his family because that’s the safe and secure life he knows. Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi is written and directed by acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Shemi Zarhin. The movie’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, and it offers a sublime performance by Oshri Cohen as the teenager who needs to take responsibility for the kind of person he is and the kind of life he is going to lead.

The concept was begun by the organization/magazine Adusters in 1999 as an attempt to discourage the riduculous shopping frenzy. To celebrate BND, one simply has to refrain from buying for one day, but that simple choice is intended to have further implications. It is a day to reflect on manipulations of advertising and excessive consumerism that has permeated every aspect of our culture. This year Buy Nothing Day falls on November 26. Supporters of this new holiday hope to get the word spread as widely as possible. Plans vary from postering and TV ads to more humourous prank-like activities. Keep your eyes open for signs of BND in Buffalo and remember to resist going to the store this Friday.

For more information go to http://www.adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/index.html .

And here at home, the Bush administration continues its war on freedom. Karl Rove, George W’s top political strategist and a personal friend of mine, said that Bush will “absolutely” use his second term to push for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Well, that’s just mother-fucking-terrific, you fat piece of pedophilic shit.

"Five thousand years of human history should not be overthrown by the acts of a few liberal judges or by the acts of a few local elected officials," Rove said on NBC’s Meet the Press. "Marriage is and should be defined as being between one man and one woman." Riiiight. Because we all know that a marriage license is going to tear our society down. Yep. A motherfucking piece of parchment declaring a couple’s love is certainly going to be the beginning of the end.

So let me get this straight, you right-wing douche-bags. The statement is that it’s okay for a gay couple to live together. They can even have a “civil union” document. But a marriage? Oh, nooooo, that would be wrong. So basically, two gay people can live together, adopt kids, open up joint financial accounts, and fuck like bunnies; all of this is just morally peachy keen to you Evangelical dipshits. But a piece of paper with the M-word on it? Oh, that’ll just be the end of civilization as we know it! Mmm-hmm.

Am I the Only Person Who Sees the Fucking Problem Here? Look, look, look, I don’t care if your church has a problem with it. You can go to church on Sunday or Saturday or whatever-fucking-day you think is most holy, and bash gays all you want. That’s just swell. Lock your church doors and refuse to marry anybody you want; you reserve the right to be prejudiced bastards cowering in a pew because reality simply doesn’t fit your narrow-minded bible-centric paradigm.

I’ll be damned if I don’t fight you with my dying breath on this issue, however. You can take your Fear-of God-and-Gays hokey religious crap right the fuck out of my government. Thank you very much. Unlike our president, you see, I think this whole separation of church and state thing that our founding fathers supported was a pretty good idea.

How the fuck does a piece of paper in a gay couples house affect any part of society if you know that they are going to be sodomizing each other in there anyway? It doesn’t! Just like it doesn’t really matter what happens between them in the bedroom, I also feel it’s really none of my business what happens between them and the government. I see no, NO, NO reason to refuse a homosexual couple a marriage license.

It doesn’t even make rational fucking sense. And to make an amendment to the U.S. Constitution over it? You mean to tell me that you actually think this is an important enough issue to alter the very contract that this nation is founded on. Really. You really, really do? The highest law of the land, the document that actually protects all our freedoms should be instead altered to persecute a certain lifestyle? Hmm. Oh yeah, that’ll really make me want to put my hand to my heart and pledge allegiance.

I thought this country was all about liberty. But hey, I’m a liberal. What do I know? Oh, and while we’re altering this fine constitution of ours, let’s be sure to rewrite that part about the freedom of religion to mean that you have to choose one. No more of this secular humanism nonsense. Oh! And we should probably change that part about limiting the president to two terms. I mean, what’s going to happen in 2008??? Yeah, we really don’t need that 22nd amendment anyway…

But God save our guns! If Jesus were alive today, he’d be a Texan! YEE-HAW! I have an amendment for you, Bush: Go fuck yourself. You get this amendment through and I’ll tear it out myself.

In fact, a front page editorial in the second edition of the paper gives us the general impression that while The Buffalo Examiner may be a brand new paper, behind the curtain it’s the same old Natalie playing the all too familiar role of stage mom from hell. The editorial begins:

“For the last eight years, every time the subject of newspapers in Buffalo arose, someone waxed nostalgic about the old Courier Express, or said something about how they used to get the News, or that the News is just too conservative, or just too liberal, or just too comfortable in our one newspaper town.”

Monopoly Dailies, The Alternative Press, and Fox News

There are important differences between newspapers and magazines, just as there are important differences between dailies and weeklies. The tabloidization of the news media has pushed everything further in the direction of a magazine format. If a style of writing or graphic layout arises that is popular and helps sell the product, it is appropriated by the major dailies.

Ms. Green seems incapable of grasping this fact because the first person, editorial-as -news style utilized in the alternative papers over the last twenty to thirty years is so completely ingrained in her style that she appears to be unaware that she is even employing it. Consider the first words of her essay, “For the last eight years…”

Of course, people in Buffalo have been waxing nostalgic for the Courier Express before its doors were even closed. It’s just a guess but the last eight years Ms. Green refers to seems to coincide with her career as a writer in alternative papers in Buffalo. She then employs a favorite technique of Fox News by using the mysterious attribution of “someone” in a bizarre context: “someone waxed nostalgic…” What’s wrong with saying “friends”, or even “the majority of people I talked to…?” After all, this is just an editorial essay.

The movie “Outfoxed,” demonstrates the creeping takeover over of tabloid attribution style by showing Fox news personalities using the phrase, “Some people say…,” as a tool to promote an editorial viewpoint in what is supposedly “a fair and balanced” news segment. Apparently the generic “someone” attribute is acceptable to Green in lieu of an actual man in the street story. As formulaic as the man in the street story is, it’s still a lot more interesting than “someone said” or in this case, “someone waxed nostalgic.” Who the hell is this someone and why should I care about their nostalgia?

In all fairness to The Buffalo News, it seems that most people complain about a perceived bias because they don’t read. When we say that Buffalo is a one newspaper town, we mean that it is the only daily. This has created a cottage industry of critics in which the Buffalo Examiner is only the latest entry. Declaring Buffalo a two newspaper town, as Green does with more than a little measure of self-aggrandizement, does not make it so.

Settling Old Scores Vs “Conservative” Feminism

The “How does it feel?” portion of the headline sounds like a quote from Dylan’s classic, “Like a Rolling Stone.” This falls under the heading of gratuitous classic rock reference, another hallmark of alternative press excess. Who is the person this come-uppance is directed at? The evidence points to Jamie Moses. Mr. Moses must be quaking in his motorcycle boots.

Mr. Moses has been accused of a lot of things, but to my recollection I’ve never heard him described as fat. However, his publication Artvoice was castigated in a Buffalo News article for running ads that were connected with a prostitution ring, as I recall. So while in the following passage, Ms. Green seems to speak in general terms of the state of the alternative press, it certainly seems to apply to Artvoice, specifically.

“…free alternative weeklies have grown fat and, well, a bit lazy, resting on their knee-jerk (Big L) Liberal values, and advertising for restaurants, plastic surgery, and prostitutes. The sex trade, whatever you think of it subsidizes a great deal of that independent journalism, which is unfortunate, since marketing prostitution isn’t a very solid ethical foundation for those calling for progress.”

The Buffalo Examiner is a publication that has, in its infancy, taken pro-feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage editorial positions. How its publisher can pen a screed slamming “knee-jerk (Big L) Liberals” is a pretty amusing question. Who are these Big L Liberals? Apparently, the big L here doesn’t stand for lesbians. Maybe it refers to those limousine liberals we’re always hearing about on Fox News?

If you read carefully, however, you see that Ms. Green appears to have an issue with organized labor. Unions are as convenient a target as any in the finger-pointing aftermath of the 2004 election. In Green’s article on the Control Board, she takes issue with the Taylor Laws, stating that, “…these laws have everything to do with why it matters who we elected for State Senate and Assembly.”

She also depicts the control board as something heroic: “In comes a group of New York State Governor George Pataki’s friends and supporters, finally, to straighten out the wayward children who in this case are the city of Buffalo and its, ‘covered organizations.’”

“Finally,” indeed. Its about time Daddy Pataki came home with his pals and took us all over their collective knees. Can you get any more paternalistic and authoritarian than that, really? This is straight out of the playbook of The Buffalo News. Desperate times call for desperate measures. In her worldview unionized workers are greedy, lazy and in need of some good old-fashioned discipline. She never questions the specifics of the hostile, corporate takeover that the control board represents, never questions why two lifelong political flunkies like Masiello and Giambra have found a home on the control board, and never questions why some “covered organizations” (a term she uses with heavy-handed sarcasm) have been exempted from control board scrutiny, despite massive problems (i.e the Buffalo Sewer Authority).

Happy News, Advertising and Tony’s Cronies

There is another journalistic trend that Green still seems to follow: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Emphasize happy news!!! As a result, we can expect plenty of boosterism out of the Buffalo Examiner. Lots of Chamber of Commerce type stories about what a great job our local powerbrokers are doing. On the other hand, if there’s a group of people who are unpopular or there’s a business that’s not interested in advertising, we might find them to be tempting targets for Green’s “independent journalism.” In the meantime, sucking up to Masiello cronies appears to be the order of the day.

As you may recall Ms. Green was the editor of Buffalo Beat, a free weekly which carried on an often bitter rivalry with Artvoice. Both papers occasionally accused the other of throwing out their papers and thereby defrauding their advertisers.

Speaking of advertisers, it never seemed to bother Green that the back pages of Buffalo Beat were generally filled with salacious ads when she was editor. The way she groups restaurants, plastic surgery and prostitutes together in the same sentence is truly remarkable. Is it really a small restaurant owner’s fault that he cannot afford to pay the exorbitant advertising rates of The Buffalo News? Is plastic surgery still a seedy, morally dubious profession and do these businesses deserve to be held up for public ridicule for advertising in a paper that fails to check on the legality of other advertisers’ businesses? That’s what Ms. Green seems to be saying here.

Ms. Green does not, however, make a pledge to her readers to police the legitimacy of her own paper’s advertisers. So we don’t really know how her paper will be different from the unwashed masses of alternative papers which are so much pulp in her eyes.

Unlike the usual free alternative paper offerings, the Examiner is charging a rather steep newsstand price of one dollar. Considering the fact that the Examiner is only slightly larger than Alt, this is a big leap of faith. Their website currently offers no free content, whatsoever. Given the fact that the editorial positions of the Examiner more or less mirror those of the big, bad Buffalo News: pro-Pataki, pro-choice, what do readers get from the Examiner that they cannot get from The News?

More “Usual Suspects”

Green has brought some familiar pen names to the Examiner, including former Buffalo Beat staffer, Suzanne Taylor. While having a woman write a hockey column certainly provides an alternative perspective. It doesn’t help much that we’re in the middle of the NHL’s lockout season, does it?

Also on board, is Nancy Parisi, the Artvoice photographer who successfully ran the Whathashappened page, documenting society happenings in the Buffalo area. The fact that The Buffalo News has apparently not offered Parisi a job is puzzling. What could be better for a Sunday edition than a contemporary society section chronicling the comings and goings of rich and beautiful people in photographs? Apparently, there’s little more to living in our society than weddings and obituaries.

Recently, the controversial Richard Kern was also added to the Examiner roster. While we can agree that Kern’s “surveillance” tactics earned him unwarranted scrutiny from Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark’s office, there are reasons why Kern was asked to leave Alt, not the least of which was his association with Mike Kuzma and Common Council President Dave Franczyk. We regret that these friendships appear to sometimes cloud Mr. Kern’s judgment.

We’ve seen nothing that would convince us that the white fist on Kuzma’s political campaign posters were anything but an appeal to white power enthusiasts. Franczyk’s ability to live down his race-based campaign literature is, of course, a testament to the public relations prowess of The Buffalo News.

While we wish Mr. Kern luck in his new endeavor and we appreciate the efforts that some times accompany his indignant attacks on the endemic corruption in East Side housing policies, we would prefer that he and his friends keep their distance from Alt and would like to take this opportunity to remind readers that Mr. Kern has had NO association with the Buffalo Alternative Press for the last seven years.

Beating A “Beat” Paper

In terms of ethics, there are still some questions lingering over Green’s role at Buffalo Beat. She attacks alternative weeklies in the editorial we discuss here, but while at Buffalo Beat she actively campaigned to join the Association of Alternative Weeklies. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that in her application she claimed that Buffalo Beat broke the story of how Masiello’s Chief of Police, Rocco Diina was running for Erie County Sheriff, while his private security firm was doing business with the County. Great scoop! Unfortunately, that story was broken by a retired Buffalo Police Officer, Bill Logal, in The Buffalo Alternative Press.

Buffalo Beat ended its run when its publisher Mark Mausner, ran afoul of the IRS, but Green was on the outs prior to that debacle. We can’t speculate on what could have been, but under Green, the paper was certainly competitive. While in this essay, we focus on the early faults we see with her new endeavor, Green deserves some respect for her efforts. We can’t accuse her of lacking chutzpah but in terms of our response to the question her editorial poses, “How does it feel” our answer would have to be, it feels like Buffalo Beat has returned to the land of the living and now costs one dollar more than its worth.

Building an alternative paper through a subscription base is a tough assignment, but it is one that may ultimately prove successful. If Ms. Green and company are up to the task they can rant and rail about the Buffalo News all they want, despite the fact that they may +be fighting on the same side as The News in Buffalo’s culture war.

“This deal is bad for the hospital and bad for County taxpayers. The new independent hospital authority started out burdened with a large debt that wasn’t used to improve its operations, with no new revenues to pay the debt and no business plan to improve its self-sufficiency. The County is still financially responsible for a money-losing hospital over which it now has little control. All this to solve a short-term cash crunch for the County,” Hevesi said. “This is a lose-lose deal for axpayers and for the people who rely on the medical center for essential health care.

“The County forced the hospital to borrow and took the proceeds to pay for the County’s operating expenses. In other words the County used one-time debt proceeds to pay for its own continuing operating costs. That’s irresponsible,” Hevesi said. “Similar deals were done with public hospitals in Nassau and Westchester, but it seems Erie officials did not learn from the mistakes made in those transactions.”

The audit found that:

· In January 2004, a public hospital that was losing significant amounts of money as a part of County government was converted into an independent entity, Erie County Medical Center Corporation(ECMCC), with no new revenue or operational plan to make it self-sufficient.

· Instead, the deal imposed additional debt costs on the hospital, though the borrowed money was not used to improve the hospital’s operations. The hospital now has $101 million in long-term debt, up from $22 million when it was part of County government.

· Paying off that $101 million in debt will cost $214 million in principal and interest over 30 years.

· Erie County could have transferred the hospital’s assets for free, but instead used the deal to borrow funds to pay for it sown operations at a time when it was running out of cash. Using long-term debt to pay for this year’s operating costs violates the most basic principle of responsible government finance.

· Because the Medical Center issued the debt, County government created the false impression that its debt is lower, even though the County is obligated to repay the debt.

· The County’s actual aid to the Medical Center will be overstated, because a substantial portion of that aid will go to repay the debt. If there were no debt, the Medical Center could use those funds to improve its operations or provide additional services.

· There is no indication that Erie County learned from the earlier mistakes made when Westchester and Nassau Counties transferred their medical centers to public authorities, but did not develop business plans.

· ECMCC has been slow to develop and implement a business plan, which the experience in Nassau and Westchester demonstrates is essential to ensuring the success of the Medical Center. ECMCC’s bylaws require it to have both a business plan and a five-year strategic plan.

· The Medical Center needs a business plan, including a five-year strategy, so it can use the County’s subsidy to implement reforms, improve its operations and eventually reduce the subsidy and achieve the goal of increased self-sufficiency.

· The formation of ECMCC has been under serious consideration since at least December 2001 and was approved in July 2003.County and Medical Center officials should have developed at least a preliminary business plan before ECMCC was created so that reforms could begin to be implemented immediately when it took over the Medical Center. For example, even if the Medical Center could not begin to negotiate with private partners until it was independent, it could have identified potential partners and developed a strategy for negotiating with them.

· No business plan was submitted to auditors until yesterday, almost nine months after ECMCC was created. It is impossible to do a thorough analysis based solely on a power-point presentation. However, it is a one-year plan. Officials have still not prepared the five-year plan required by ECMCC bylaws.

· Erie County is still obligated to subsidize ECMCC regardless of its performance. The County must cover the Medical Center’s losses and pay the debt service. The County has also promised to provide capital funds. In 2004, for example, the County operating subsidy is $24 million. According to the one-year plan, the County subsidy will increase slightly in 2005.

· In exchange for one-time cash flow through borrowing, the County, which is still financially responsible for the Medical Center, gave up management control. The Governor appoints the majority of the new board. And if ECMCC fails, the hospital reverts back to the County.

Erie County Medical Center had operated as a department of Erie County for many years. It includes a general hospital, which has the only adult trauma and burn treatment centers in the area, several clinics and a 586-bed nursing home. It serves as a safety net, providing care to low-income and indigent patients. Like almost all public hospitals that serve the poor and uninsured, the Medical Center loses money. From 1998 through 2003, the Medical Center received $119 million in subsidies from Erie County. It projects 2005 spending of $299 million.

ECMCC officials rejected almost all the findings of the audit.

· Medical Center officials claim that the deal reduced the hospital’s debt because the borrowing was used to eliminate the hospital’s $53.7 million in short-term debt and $22 million in long-term debt.

The claim is false. The OSC audit found that the $53.7 million was not a true debt of the Medical Center. The Medical Center was part of the County, which paid for the difference between wha the Medical Center spent and what it took in. Most years the County would appropriate less than the Medical Center actually needed. When the County made up the difference, it would call that additional amount a “loan,” even though it was no different than the other funds the County was providing. Calling this payment a “loan” allowed the County to create an “asset” on its books, the “loan” to the Medical Center. Over the years, that“ loan” grew to $53.7 million. But this is no more a true loan than if the County had to make up shortfalls in its parks department. What’s more, the County was using this gimmick to turn what was really an expense, part of the cost of operating its hospital, into a phony asset, the “loan” to the Medical Center.

The $22 million was debt associated with the Medical Center, which the County was required by law to retire when it sold the assets. If the County wanted to put the new ECMCC in the strongest possible position, it would have just forgiven the “loan,” retired the small amount of debt, and let the new hospital agency start out with no debt. However, the County was running short of cash. So instead, it forced ECMCC to buy itself. Taxpayers, who had already paid to build and maintain the Medical Center, are now paying for it again. The factis that the actual debt of the Medical Center went from $22 million to$101 million.

· To prove the deal left the Medical Center with less debt, ECMCC officials claim liabilities declined from $144 million before the takeover to $121 million afterwards.

This claim is classic misdirection. These are irrelevant numbers that have nothing to do with debt. When the Medical Center was transferred from the County to a new separate agency, its balance sheet was completely restructured and not all assets and liabilities were transferred to the new entity. While liabilities went down $20 million, assets declined by $53 million. None of that has anything to do with the amount of debt, which climbed from $22 million to $101 million.

· ECMCC officials state that the Comptroller’ Office had approved both the short-term debt issued when ECMCC was setup in January 2004 and the long-term debt issued in August 2004. ECMCC officials suggest that because OSC approved the debt, it therefore approved the creation of ECMCC.

That is false. The State Legislature and the Governor created ECMCC with the support of County officials. The State Comptroller had no role in approving the plan. The Comptroller’s Office only role is to rule on technical issues related to the terms and conditions of the sale of notes and bonds, such as whether they were priced properly and whether fees were appropriate. In fact, in January, February and May2004 when asked to review the note and bond deals, the Comptroller’s Office did raise questions about the soundness of the deal and the lack of a business plan. Indeed, when OSC requested a business plan in May 2004, ECMCC officials temporarily withdrew their request for approval of the bond deal. It was because of those concerns that OSC decided to audit ECMCC. The audit began in May 2004, before the bond deal was approved.

· ECMCC officials state they do have a business plan, which was passed by its board on October 28, 2004. They acknowledge a number of senior management changes that delayed the development of a business plan.

ECMCC officials have not provided any valid reason for the failure to create a business plan before the corporation was created. Creating an independent hospital has been under discussion since at least December 2001 and it was authorized in July 2003. Since the stated goal was to maintain an essential health service while reducing taxpayer subsidies, a plan to achieve that goal was also critical. The fact that the Medical Center could not begin to implement a plan until after ECMCC was created does not justify its failure to develop a plan.

The audit has five recommendations. ECMCC officials should:

· Complete a detailed business plan and five-year strategy as required by ECMCC bylaws.

· Explore whether equity partnerships can enhance financial operations and learn from Nassau and Westchester medical centers’ experiences.

· If partnerships make sense, identify potential partners and develop a strategy for negotiating deals.

· Develop plans to reduce costs without harming health care and study the experience in Nassau and Westchester in attempting to reduce costs.

· Erie County officials should carefully monitor ECMCC financial operations and be prepared to continue to provide a significant financial subsidy.

Click here for a copy of the auditor go to www.osc.state.ny.us.

Now that it appears that President George W. Bush won fair and square (or rather, fair and square enough), it’s time to dumb it down a little and get with the program. Stop wallowing in the self pity and start thinking of ways to turn this situation to your advantage.

We’ve got one word for you: ribbon magnets. Okay that’s two words, but we’re one nation, under God, and don’t you forget it!

According to a recent New York Times Magazine article, “The ribbon-magnet phenomenon apparently began in April 2003 in rural North Carolina, where a Christian-book-store owner named Dwain Gullion began distributing a batch of 1,000 magnets created by a local designer and a local screen printer.”

Wow, nice story, but with all due respect, bigger is better. Ribbon magnets were too important to remain in the hands of a little guy.

We’re all united in support of our armed forces, but someone other than Gullion applied for the patent on the idea. Richard Real, a Florida entrepreneur, apparently figured out that, in a country obsessed with wearing its patriotism on its sleeve, it makes sense to be the guy designing, manufacturing, and selling that sleeve. Profit is, after all, the American way.

This Year’s Bumper Crop: Ribbon Magnets

While driving to the country one fine autumn morning, I was suddenly exposed to the fashion phenomenon that has swept the nation – ribbon magnets. With enough of these things, I thought, Bush is destined for glory.

Living in Buffalo, a place where folks struggle to put food on the table and have to be stingy when it comes to accessorizing, I hadn’t really noticed the trend of normal Americans affixing these ribbon magnets to their cars to show their patriotism. In years past, it had always seemed as if it was enough for patriotic folks to hang American flags from the front porch, but apparently that no longer cuts it.

If you’re a true blue American, you drive, period. You consume, no questions asked. And this is just my gut feeling, but it seems to me that people who drive sport utility vehicles, especially ones that burn lots of fossil fuel, are more patriotic than the rest of us, at least in the countryside south of Buffalo because I was absolutely blown away by the number of vehicles that had these things on their rear ends. The most common ribbon magnet I saw that day was the yellow one with the inscription, “Support Our Troops.”

When Did “Our Troops” Become a Charity Case?

I noticed that all of these folks were supporting our troops, and I apparently wasn’t. How was that possible? Don’t my taxes also go to support the military? Like the flag from the front porch, that’s no longer good enough, apparently.

Part of the new patriotism is this church fundraiser mentality (exemplified by Guillon’s best intentions) whereby we have to raise money for the most powerful military force in the history of the planet as if they were Jerry’s Kids. I’m not trying to make fun of Jerry’s Kids by saying that, but aren’t Jerry’s Kids a more worthy charity than a war machine? I’m just afraid that many of these folks who hold house parties to scrounge up quarters for Kevlar may not have anything left over to give to charities such as Jerry’s Kids.

Then it dawned on me. The ribbons weren’t necessarily a symbol of the drivers’ extra financial support for the troops. How much of the money spent on these magnets goes to the troops, I wondered. Well, why would any of it have to go to them? The U. S. military is, after all, not a charitable organization. Then I realized that there was probably some guy out there who masterminded the whole movement, kind of like the guy who came up with beer-dispensing football helmets. An absurd invention, true, but it’s one that many people can no longer live without. I decided that there must be some genius exploiting all of this patriotic fervor for fun and profit, and I was going to find out this man is.

“Support (Wink-Wink) Our Troops”

His name is Robert Real and his Florida-based company, Americas & Americas Inc., carries not only a complete line of the seemingly ubiquitous ribbon magnets but also lots of other patriotic novelty products as well. His company does make these products available to not-for-profits for resale, but anyone who can afford to buy these products in quantity can do as they please with them. Talk about a great potential hustle! There’s nothing that would stop an enterprising person from selling these things at a mark up and keeping all of the profits, because after all, if the hustler pays his federal taxes, he would not be lying if he promised the buyer that some portion of the profits would go to the military!

But if you’re of this same entrepreneurial frame of mind, don’t get any big ideas because Mr. Real is no fool. He has applied for a patent on ribbon magnets and, if the letters of appreciation from Rudolph Guiliani that are posted on his company’s website mean anything, Mr. Real has some serious support of his own and is prepared to defend his patented products. The company’s website has all sorts of tidbits that can satisfy a curious person.

For example, did Mr. Real come up with this product out of the blue? The answer to that is no. The company apparently started out with other, less exciting patriotic products, such as flags, prior to coming up with the ribbon magnet. Not surprisingly, September 11 was like manna from heaven, and the company did its best to meet the demands of a grieving nation; hence the thank-you letter from Rudy Guiliani.

Lest We Never Forget…

The saddest thing about our need to memorialize things with trinkets is that the very things that are meant to help us remember eventually help us forget. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for some people to figure out who is buried in Grant’s tomb.

In that vein, Buffalo was once awash with memorials to the Grand Army of the Republic. Who were they? The town of Kenmore has an inordinate number of streets with French names. Why? Lest we forget, indeed. Today’s tragedy becomes tomorrow’s trivia. Perversely saying we’ll never forget helps us forget.

If you still feel the need to remember the events of September 11, you might be interested to know that Americas & Americas is now having a clearance sale on some of its unforgettable novelty items, including an American flag with the World Trade Center towers silk screened over it, a 9/11 paper weight, and a charming little set of figurines depicting Yesterday’s heroes, the firefighters and police. They were heroes on that day but, today, they seem to be just another example of bloated government that we can no longer afford. Buy now, lest you forget.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Parade magazine kept a vigil for tacky novelty products that the magazines’ editors felt were exploitative of the legacy of the late Princess Diana of England.

No such watch was carried out for 9/11, however.

But to stick with the ribbon magnets, let’s analyze the company’s latest assortment:

God Bless the USA Magnets – Both Presidential candidates in this year’s race intoned “God Bless America” in their final speeches. I believe there is a country song, called “God Bless the USA.” If I’m in the mood for a patriotic anthem other than the Star Spangled Banner, I find “This land is your land, this land is my land,” to be an attractive alternative. I apparently don’t have much company with this because there isn’t a ribbon magnet with that theme. This sort of communitarian patriotism appears to be distinctly out of favor with the ribbon magnet mavens, anyway.

Pray For Our Troops Magnets – Ah yes, the power of prayer! Somehow I don’t think this one would be appropriate affixed next to an old Darwin fish insignia.

Keep My Soldier Safe Magnets – This one is personal, almost atomistic. It kind of reminds me of the “army of one” commercials you see during sports broadcasts. It’s all about me, my soldier, my anxiety. Who is being asked to keep the owner’s soldier safe with this ribbon magnet, though? I’m going to go out on a limb, take a wild guess, and say God because some of us did do our best to keep your soldier safe by voting for John Kerry, but that didn’t work.

Freedom Isn't Free Magnets – I think they may have gotten this one out of George Orwell’s 1984. It also brings to mind Rene Descartes’ assertion that freedom cannot exist without responsibility, but that comment needs to be taken with a grain of salt because we hate the French, right?

Camouflage Proudly Served Magnets – New! This tells your fellow motorist that you proudly served your country. The problem that I have with this is that that the camouflage makes the ribbon look like a snake and, although few restaurants in the United States proudly serve snake, it is a delicacy elsewhere. For example, I once bought a snake dish from a street vendor in Seoul, South Korea. I can’t say the vendor seemed particularly proud of serving the snake but he had no reason to be ashamed, either. It was quite tasty, as I recall.

Camouflage Support Our Troops Magnets – New! The camouflage “Support” ribbon almost says that the driver secretly wants to be in the military. Stop hiding behind the um, camouflage and join up, already. Then, if you survive, you can upgrade to the ribbon that we just discussed.

Keep My Airman Safe Magnets – I’m probably the only person who saw this ribbon and thought of the William Butler Yeats poem about an Irish airman (“An Irish airman foresees his death”). Okay, I had to look it up on the internet to get the correct title. Now that I did, I don’t know if I can see this ribbon in traffic and not help but foresee the death of my fellow motorist’s airman. Again, we’re being asked to keep this serviceman safe. Again, Kerry lost. If it’s any consolation, I promise to vote against the Republican candidate in 2008, okay? As Mr. Yeats said, “Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love…”

POW-MIA Magnets - Shades of Vietnam with this one. It’s my personal impression that the whole POW-MIA thing kind of got appropriated by Harley enthusiasts. Face it, POW-MIA insignias look awesome on a Harley. It has major curb appeal in the “owner is a badass” department. I don’t think this magnet works on a Harley, however. Too big. Not a part of the artwork. Still, it’s ahead of the curve. The people being taken hostage in Iraq have thus far been primarily poor, desperate people who are in the country to support their families. Hardly the glamour of the Hanoi Hilton in the minds of war enthusiasts, but this could change as things escalate.

Support Our Marines Magnets New! - Now I know a few ex-Marines and maybe it’s just them but they’re not the type who need or even like support from some fat slob in an SUV or from any branch of the service, save their fellow Marines. Leave them alone! They’re Marines, damn it! Semper Fi! Hoo-ah!

Protect My Sailor Magnets New! - On the surface, this one makes no sense, whatsoever. Protect your sailor? What are we supposed to protect your sailor from? KP duty? Seasickness? Seriously, all the Iraqi problem areas (they’re not quagmires, if you believe your fellow voters) are inland and don’t involve the Navy directly. But here’s an interesting twist: Iran is building a nuclear weapons program. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike, and Iran were to decide to retaliate by sending a few shiny, brand new missiles into an American navy vessel in the Straits of Hormuz, your sailor would need more than a little protection to survive. This is not as unlikely a scenario as you might think. We’re spread too thin, can’t invade Iran, and extremely vulnerable. Thank you, Paul Wolfowitz and Ariel Sharon, in advance.

Pink Ribbon Magnets – Breast Cancer Awareness – Okay, so pink is a color that we associate with femininity, but so is yellow, and we figured out a way to make that color apply to the military. This reminds me that the whole yellow ribbon thing got started in the first gulf war and was inspired by the Tony Orlando and Dawn classic, “Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.” We know that Mr. Real has applied for a patent on ribbon magnets, but shouldn’t part of the proceeds of the yellow ribbon campaign go to Tony Orlando? And what about Dawn? It’s been a long time since they had a hit and, while people might have tied ribbons around trees before, I’d definitely credit them with making it a national craze. They should get with the program and cash in.

Cancer Awareness Ribbon Magnets – Were you aware that there was a horrible disease which eats away at its victims and is often fatal? Well, you will be if this ribbon starts to take off the way that the others have. What is the cancer of which motorists need to be made more cognizant? Well, in my opinion, it’s called the war machine of George W. Bush, but it’s also known by other names, such as the American political-criminal nexus, the military-industrial complex and the Project For the New American Century. It’s a cancer all right, but I’m not aware of any chemo that can kill it now.

The Most Important Frequently Asked Question:

The number one question that the company wants to respond to in its FAQ? Well, if you were wondering if you can mix and match ribbons, you’ll be happy to know that the answer is yes, or to be more supportive of our military, we should say, “That’s an affirmative!” So, while I’d say that the maximum number of ribbons I’ve seen on a vehicle thus far is three, the company gives its blessing to those who want to show their support in spades.

How will the left respond to all this, we wonder? It might be time to bring back “Visualize Whirrled Peas,” or, perhaps, my personal favorite, “Keep it Cool With Telly Savalas.” How about the ultimate smarty pants slogan, “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm?” Eventually, people may regain a sense of humor, but, in the meantime, it’s sobering and (perhaps a bit hopeful) to note that the Americas & Americas company does carry a line of American flags with a peace symbol. They’re just not very big sellers, at the moment.

The Erie County Legislature has announced its schedule of 4 public hearings on the proposed 2005 Erie County Budget:

Monday, November 22, 6 p.m. Lancaster Middle School Auditorium 148 Aurora, Lancaster

Tuesday, November 23, 6 p.m. Erie Community College City Campus Auditorium 121 Ellicott, Buffalo

Monday, November 29, 6 p.m. Erie Community College South Campus Room 5101 4041 Southwestern, Orchard Park

Tuesday, November 30, 6 p.m. Clarence Public Library Three Town Place, Clarence

Join advocates from across Erie County in a collective effort to keep OUR public libraries from closing in 2005!

http://www.buffalolib.org/libraries/advocacy.asp

Madam Jakubowski:

I have a proposal, or a question, depending on how much thought and/or preparation has been expended regarding the impending doom overshadowing our library system.

Would it be possible to run the Central Library on a staff of volunteers if the community were able to muster enough support? I care less about the smaller branch libraries for the present, because most of them simply do not have the depth of resources available at the Central Library. It seems a logical choice for a unified attempt at volunteer staffing because of its central location and proximity to a major public transit hub. Plus, it could serve as a model for similar but smaller projects at the branch libraries.

Naturally, as this would be a rather complicated undertaking, I wish to enlist the support, or at least solicit the advice, of officials such as yourself who know how the library functions. I've bounced the idea around with various people, and several sub-projects have emerged as necessary:

1. Find someone or several people to coordinate library volunteers. Make available postcard forms with spaces for the names, phone numbers, and hours of availability of potential volunteers, to be mailed or given to said coordinator, who would keep a scheduling database and manage scheduling.

2. Enlist the support of librarians. It is, after all, a library.

3. Start a petition drive to put pressure on the Executive and Legislature to deal with the closings in a way that minimizes loss of materials (do you know if there will be any?) and downtime. The library system reaps obvious benefits (efficiency, knowledge, expedited upkeep, expansion, etc.) from having a professional staff and a budget with room for acquisition and other discretionary spending.

I realize that it may not be politically intelligent to attempt to run the Library system, or any particular branch, even, with volunteers, because it may encourage the Legislature to continue to slack off and may encourage the County Executive to continue to target the system for funding cuts. I believe, nonetheless, that the immediate harm done to the citizenry of this County, especially the poor, like myself, who often have little or no other recourse for research materials, computer access, educational opportunities, or just plain old entertainment, far outweighs the political problems this may create for the future re-professionalization of the library system. When the time comes that it is possible to re-incorporate the library system into the Erie County budget, we will just have to work as a community to see that it is done, and fire the executive and legislature if it is not. This region is simply too economically depressed to suffer any further deprivation.

Alternatively, I also ask your opinion on a smaller-scale attempt to staff the branch libraries with local volunteers, disregarding the Central Library. Perhaps it would be more politically valuable to do such a thing, since the real gem of the system would remain closed under such a plan--a glaring example of fiscal irresponsibility to keep pressure on the Legislature and Executive to re-professionalize the system. I dislike this plan primarily because I suspect that the manifold materials of the Central Library would remain locked in until the Library's budget was reinstated, completely unavailable for the length of the deficit. I prefer depth of resources to local convenience. This is, however, perhaps a more viable option, and maybe the Central Library could be staffed just enough to facilitate interlibrary loans, or some such reduction of services.

I write this with the sincere hope that something can be done. Call me naïve, call me an outsider (I'm from Alaska), call me what you will: I cannot sit by and watch this wonderful, friendly, yet-vibrant, stolidly dignified community lose yet another battle with its elected officials over an invaluable asset that belongs to every member. I hope you can help, Madam, or at the very least, direct me to someone who can. This is not only my plea: I write this on behalf of those who will not speak out but who will feel the burden of loss perhaps more poignantly than I. Please write back.

Sincerely,

Marcus Gottsche
Several of us citizens, county tax payers are we, testified about what libraries mean to us. I listened as senior citizens who either cannot afford to purchase computers of their own or who worry about not knowing enough about the technology to maintain them spoke of their dependence upon the Internet access provided in their neighborhood library. Ordinary working people, the ones Giambra does not listen to, spoke about their need of library services. Mothers told of borrowing stacks of books for their families’ enjoyment. Everyone spoke with eloquence, including children. One small boy said, “ I love the library.”

His testimony reminded me of when my father and I went to the Riverside Library each week during my childhood. Our reading preferences differed but we both found plenty of books to satisfy us. Helpful librarians were always ready to suggest other authors we should check out.

When I visit my neighborhood library now, students of various ages look for materials for class projects. I think back to the papers I had to write and the information I found at the public library.

My children enjoyed the “ Library Hour” at our neighborhood library as preschoolers. After the stories, we found books to bring home. In the beginning our younger daughter balked at returning books she had made me read repeatedly. I promised her new ones. Eventually she realized more books awaited that could make her laugh, teach her something, and make her feel good.

Our older daughter and a friend made weekly visits to the library. They had a competition to see who could read the most books in a week. Our daughters continue to enjoy reading, a practice that originated at the public library.

In April, 1993 Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, testified before Congress saying, “ There could emerge two classes of Americans: information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’” Now we may indeed experience that very inequity in WNY. Our governor has proposed funding libraries in Republican districts while our county executive threatens to close the libraries to “ fix” a budget gap of his making.

Districts with Republican legislators, most often suburban districts, also have well funded schools with libraries. Their residents may not miss public libraries as much as people in poorer areas where many depend upon the free library services.

According to the 2002 American Community Survey, approximately 30,000 Buffalo households have annual incomes of less than $15,000. Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council found that more than 40% of adults in Buffalo have no access to private transportation. Buffalo hosts some of the highest populations living in poverty in our nation. City schools cut libraries, despite the fact that strong libraries improve student achievement. To propose taking away free public libraries from lower During the Depression years, library usage went up. People could not afford recreation and needed access to information. In a democratic society, unhindered access to information is not a luxury, but a requirement.

Renovation of the central library for a cost of $15.5 million has begun. The proposed closing of both the Dudley and Cazenovia branches for a new $2.5 million library with the renovation costs adds up to the $18 million needed to keep Buffalo and Erie County libraries open. Instead of unneeded construction, library access in all communities should be the priority.

Cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Denver host public libraries considered destination places. Imagine what visitors to WNY will think if our libraries are shuttered. An area without a free public library will be a backward place where the populace may resort to information from sources like, shudder, Fox News.

Every citizen must have access to easily attainable information. Libraries are the true centers of our democracy. They provide information, meeting places, and opportunities for civic engagement.

I have attended public hearings as well as theatrical productions such as Macbeth at the library. Citizens receive help making out their income tax forms there in the spring.

It seems as if the Republican agenda nationwide is to run up deficits that will force cuts to entitlement programs. Giambra wants to cut the very things that make life bearable here in this wasteland of no ideas and no real leadership.

We must not allow his slash and burn mentality to triumph. Public libraries are necessities, not budgetary fat. We must cut the number of politicians and their out-of-line salaries instead.

Sandy McPherson Carrubba
( 716) 873 4586
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

"I have no doubt but that some people did leave before it started."

Anyone who reads the newspapers or is in one way or another subjected to the language of Bush Administration officials will recognize in this utterance the verbal stylings of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld uses this phrase — is it even a "phrase"? — so often, it is almost an obsession. A Google search of "no doubt but that" and "Rumsfeld" brought up over 400 pages and showed quotes from Rumsfeld on a variety of topics.

The fact that this odd grouping of words consistently conveys the opposite of Mr. Rumsfeld's intended meaning never seems to faze either him or the press. The press has never, to my knowledge, sought clarification when Mr. Rumsfeld has claimed having no doubt but that something or other is the case. Everyone seems to have no doubt that Mr. Rumsfeld's assertion is a jewel of clarity and poise.

Since I find this situation intolerable, I will now take the liberty of examining Mr. Rumsfeld's pet locution step-by-step. Let's take the statement that appeared in print yesterday. First, we learn that Mr. Rumsfeld has,

"...no doubt..."

That much is clear. Whether this absence of doubt applies in some sort of unyielding way to Mr. Rumsfeld's overall character or to what he would like us to think of that character, or whether it applies only to the case in hand, is perhaps not the most important point. What we are sure of is this: Mr. Rumsfeld feels absolutely sure about something. Let's pick up the next part of the locution:

"...but..."

Here, an exception is announced to the thing or the set of things about which Mr. Rumsfeld has no doubt. Something is subject to doubt. We can assume that much. Moreover, we should not conclude, from the suggestion or admission of doubt, that Rumsfeld's self-assuredness has been compromised. If Mr. Rumsfeld ever did have a doubt, he would be the first to say so, and he would do it forcefully, using language that puts to rest all doubt. That is, again, part of Rumsfeld's style. Now, on to the next word:

"...that..."

With this, we know, the subject of Mr. Rumsfeld's one doubt cannot be far off. Given the subordinate conjunction, we can assume, moreover, that it will be some state of affairs that is in doubt. Those familiar with Mr. Rumsfeld's manner of speaking surely were anticipating this moment. Upon hearing or reading him say, "I have no doubt...," they may have skipped at once to the words that follow:

"...some people did leave before it started."

So, that's clear, isn't it? The only thing Mr. Rumsfeld has doubt about is that some people in Fallujah left before the assault had started — the assault that was designed to kill them while they were still in town. In other words, they may not have left, for all Mr. Rumsfeld knows. If you have any doubt that this assertion contradicts what Mr. Rumsfeld intended in all likelihood to say, consider that Mr. Rumsfeld follows this boldly phrased acknowledgment by noting that,

"We also know that there are a number of hundreds that didn't and have been killed."

(This is a different point, but what is "a number of hundreds"? Is this to be distinguished from "hundreds"? If so, how? What other kinds of hundreds might Mr. Rumsfeld have been imagining that he perhaps felt it was important to exclude at once from others' considerations?)

The reason why this manner of speaking irks me is that one wonders exactly what Mr. Rumsfeld had (as the reporter noted) "acknowledged" — in this case as in all the others where he has reverted to claiming no doubt but that something or other was or was not so.

I might maintain a principle of charitable interpretation and not over-analyze statements that were perhaps made in the heat of a press conference, but the fact is, Mr. Rumsfeld always uses such pseudo-intellectual gibberish when discussing grave matters. As such, no charity could ever keep up with him, nor would it be warranted if it could keep pace. Moreover, the press is already overflowing with charity towards the Bush Administration. Therefore, I feel I am forced to try to understand.

When I do try to understand Mr. Rumsfeld's repetitive assertion, two possibilities come to mind. According to the first, Mr. Rumsfeld deliberately plants such doublespeak in his public statements. In this way, if Mr. Rumsfeld were ever called out on anything, as when facts emerge that contradict his previously stated views, he could say, "Well, look at the record... I said clearly that I doubted! In fact, I said that that's all I doubted!" Since Mr. Rumsfeld uses the curious expression almost obsessively, he could surely claim, without speaking untruthfully (though with the full intent to deceive) that he had always doubted whether Fallujah fighters had escaped, whether weapons had been stolen from Al Qaqaa under the watch of U.S. troops, whether weapons of mass destruction were being kept or developed by Saddam Hussein, and so on.

According to another possibility, the only thing that Mr. Rumsfeld may have implicitly acknowledged on this occasion, or at any time that he has spoken in such a tortured manner, is his own incoherence and incorrigible phoniness. Of course, if this were so, getting him to acknowledge that he had mistakenly or implicitly acknowledged any such thing would surely require another type of torture. Mr. Rumsfeld is a man of little doubt. Of that we can always be sure.

My conclusion? It is one thing to have a government full of unaccountable war criminals. It is another, and far worse, when the war criminals are deceptive, bungling fools. Indeed, I have no doubt but that that is not the case.

In fact, I'm sure of it.

(Philip M. Adamek)
What do you do with a budget deficit that was caused, in part, by policies of your own political party holding power in Washington? Create a public relations campaign. Get busy with a power point presentation. Punish constituencies who have opposed you. Or as Irv Weinstein, anchor emeritus of Channel 7, might say: use it as a pretext to attack a hard target such as the county’s public library system that has proven to be too politically popular to succumb to the proverbial budget ax in the past. Joel knows how to get even and he knows how to curry favor with higher ups in his own party, and the strategy is really quite simple: Impersonate Newt Gingrich.

Am I the only person to notice that this latest expression of the repugnance of government is being carried out by a person who has held government positions for his entire adult life? Irony, thy name is Joel.

Of course, Joel more than doubled his IQ in the eyes of The Buffalo News when he began sporting reading glasses. Aside from a prop for the bridge of his nose, it’s difficult to say what he used his new glasses for. Clearly, he wasn’t reading the complaints and warnings concerning the phony budget that he gave to county legislators prior to getting us into to this artificial crisis. Still, that kind of fashion statement is pretty impressive for a guy with an associate’s degree.

Now, it seems clear that, if Joel decides to start using his reading glasses for their original purpose, he may have to hurry. With all of the public libraries closed as a result of his “activism,” Joel might find himself stuck reading the screeds of his own party and actually start believing that he, too, is on a mission from God.

In modern America, the sales tax is similar to the poll tax in medieval times; in the right hands, it can be used as a weapon of repression. Increases in the sales tax are regressive because they have a disproportionate effect on poor people. But we are at war here, and, in times of war, property value is more precious than human life. Therefore, we don’t expect Giambra to roll back the property tax breaks that he created in his first term without a fight.

It’s not likely that there will be a peasants’ rebellion over all this because we don’t realize that we’re all basically a bunch of peasants in the first place. At least, nobody’s admitting to it. The best that we can hope for is that Joel’s latest jihad will elevate him in the GOP to a higher level of incompetence.

Nancy and Sid

In our last issue, we discussed the vicious and negative attack ads of the Nancy Naples campaign. We discussed the fact that, in the presidential campaign, the door appeared wide open for election fraud. Just because John Kerry fell on his sword doesn’t mean that Nancy should back off. After a photo finish to her race with Democrat Brian Higgins, the full court press is on for the recount to send Naples to Washington.

Forget about all that talk of hands reaching across the aisle. If any olive branch had been extended by the Higgins camp, it was most assuredly returned scorched. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Karl Rove declared his party defeated in its efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, hinting that the majorities that Republicans now enjoy in the Senate and in the House of Representatives are simply not enough. Maybe next time, right?

Who would have suspected that the religious right in the United States was a Stradivarius lying in wait for the hands of such a maestro as Rove?

In light of the losses suffered by the Democratic Party, what about the veiled threats that the Naples campaign made concerning the federal monies that would not be made available to Western New York if voters in this region did not do their part and send a loyal foot soldier of the GOP to the capitol.

Higgins vowed to fight for an increase in the minimum wage. It looks as if that’s probably dead in the water, at least for this term. Maybe we should all cry uncle and try appeasement. After all, what if the Republicans make good on their threats and punish the region voting in a Democrat during a war? Maybe we’re simply not destined to enjoy the sort of “peace in our time” that the Kerry campaign asked its supporters to seek in defeat.

Not Necessarily The News

Much has been made of the fact that a growing number of Americans rely on late-night talk show hosts and so called “fake news” programs hosted by comedians such as Jon Stewart and the reactionary Dennis Miller for their news.

Where does this leave political commentary in the print medium? Satirical political humor with overt bias has long been a form of expression that was left fallow by mainstream dailies, which, in turn, created a vacuum that alternative and college newspaper writers gleefully filled.

Well, what’s old is new again. Where does that leave the new and improved Buffalo News? It leaves our sole local daily newspaper with a void in the all-important political humor programming area, which is like trying to run the Department of Homeland Security without having the ability to scare the be-Jesus out of people.

So, in an attempt to leaven their publication with a bit of humor and wit, they turned to a seasoned staffer, Mary Kunz. Kunz brings a typical middle-aged, Republican, suburban woman’s perspective to the proceedings. Of course, if life is a bowl of cherries, there’s no need to ask what Kunz is doing in the pits, because this is The Buffalo News we’re talking about.

Kunz’s contribution to the Sunday edition’s Off Main Street column was passable in a “bimbo about town” kind of way, but applying this narrative perspective to the inside baseball political humor popularized by people such as Jon Stewart is unintentionally funny. We might be able to laugh with her, if only her views weren’t so uninformed. Instead, we must be content to laugh at her ditzy, epistolary diarrhea, knowing that her pathetic ignorance, especially about local politics, is a state of mind that is shared by the majority of our neighbors. Apparently, the editors at The News are of the opinion that their readers are like the offensive line of the Buffalo Bills, a “mushroom culture,” that is completely in the dark.

Maybe men and women process politics differently, but in the current environment it seems that, if you’re going to identify yourself as a Republican humorist, it would behoove you to play by Rove’s rules and pretend that you’re a character in an Icelandic saga. As such, you should never refrain from pausing to make some sort of sarcastic or ironic comment before running your defenseless opponent through, amidst fountains of spurting blood and the anguished cries of innocent women and children. Stay in character, for Pete’s sake. After all, this is war.

As if to highlight the ongoing violence, the rumbling of heavy explosions could be heard as a backdrop as the prime minister went on to state: “We want to secure the country so elections can be done in a peaceful way, and the Iraqi people can participate in the elections freely, without the intimidation by terrorists and by forces that are trying to wreck the political process…” Allawi must know that he is putting a brave face to a situation that is quickly spinning out of control. All across Iraq, insurgent forces have the initiative. Just before the emergency was declared, guerillas staged dozens of attacks throughout the Sunni Triangle and beyond. In the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, three police stations were raided and 22 officers were killed, many of them lined up and executed by firing squads. In the two days of attacks, over the weekend, more than 60 people have been killed and about 75 wounded.

If martial law is indeed the plan, it would seem to be up to the U.S. occupation troops to do the cracking down during the 60 days of emergency rule. This could lead to more checkpoint shootouts and more doors kicked in as U.S. troops again go about the mostly ineffective tactic of rounding up the usual suspects. Meanwhile, feuding Iraqis finger the folks whom they want arrested.

Fallujah

The occupation forces are convinced that the elimination of the insurgent stronghold in the city of Fallujah is the central theme in fighting the rebellion. The military believes that killing or capturing the 3,000 or so fighters in the now-besieged city will break the back of the resistance. Just hours after the declaration of martial law upon the populace, the prime minister gave the green light for the Americans to begin the assault on the city.

U.S. Marines and soldiers with tanks and other armored units from the First Infantry Division and the First Cavalry Division had sealed off the city in the weeks preceding the attack. They launched the main attack at sundown on Monday. Between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops, supplemented by Iraqi infantry troops, are involved in the hostilities. In the words of the Pentagon, this is to give the assault an “Iraqi face.” But unfortunately, many of these soldiers have refused to participate and have deserted. An embedded reporter with National Public Radio has written that one Iraqi battalion shrank from more than 500 men to just 170 during the past two weeks, and another 225 de-enlisting over the weekend. This scenario is typical of U.S. involvement just about anywhere. During the Vietnam War era, this was normal procedure. While thousands of U.S. troops were dying in southeast Asia, a token amount of allied troops who should have been leading the charge were on the scene. At the same time, the hapless U.S. taxpayer was footing the bill.

Prior to the ground assault, U.S. fighter jets dropped 500-pound bombs and artillery units shelled the city with high explosives in an effort to soften up rebel targets. Civilians still holding out in the city are estimated between 30 and 50,000, down from the normal population of 300,000.

Army General George Casey predicts that the guerillas “will probably fall back toward the center of the city, where there will probably be a major confrontation.” This could be a serious engagement for U.S. forces as they try to fight their way from house to house, block by block. Snipers, PRGs, and interlocking machine gun fire could prove disastrous. The only option left to the U.S. command might be pounding suspected targets with massive firepower to minimize U.S. casualties. Insurgents will know the terrain and they will know which local civilians will be amenable to helping them. The insurgents will easily blend in with what’s still alive of the population.

Waiting inside the city could very well be the hard core of several hundred fighters, loyal to or even led by the notorious and elusive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Their weapons of choice will be suicide bombers, booby- trapped car bombs, and even reports of entire building rigged to explode. The enemy units inside the city have had months to prepare and nothing to inhibit their movements.

As we go to press, other cites are feeling the sting of increased insurgent escalation. U.S. casualties are on the rise, and will increase.

A military action that begins to break the back of the insurgency could well be the straw that breaks the back of the occupation.

I was stationed at a precinct on a quiet street in a little town in eastern Ohio, and it was nonstop trouble for the full thirteen hours the polls were open. My assignment was to make sure that all registered and qualified voters who showed up at my precinct would get the chance to vote. Here is why I failed at that assignment:

1. The Republicans had well-trained lawyers assigned to each targeted polling place, armed with lists of newly registered Democrats and instructions on how to challenge their right to vote.

2. The Republican challenger at our polling site got to sit inside the polling station all day, while the Democrats (two other volunteers and me) were not allowed in the polling site all day, even to use the bathrooms.

3. The Republican lawyer stationed alongside the Board of Elections staff inside the polling site occasionally left her post to talk with voters waiting outside about Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Bush’s plan to “save” Social Security. She argued with voters that didn’t agree with her. Then she returned to her seat inside to decide which voters she would challenge.

4. The presiding elections judge was also a Republican and repeatedly threatened to call the police on us because we were “distracting her.” She did call the police a couple of times and, each time she called, the police stayed to monitor and question us for more than an hour. This made it impossible for us to respond to frustrated voters.

5. This presiding elections judge also ripped down all of our legally posted Kerry/Edwards signs and our non-partisan “Know Your Voting Rights” posters so that voters couldn’t identify us for assistance if they had questions.

6. Other Republican lawyers who were technically unauthorized to enter the polling site were allowed in and out of building all day by the presiding election judge, while we were not allowed to even step inside.

All of this leads up to the biggest problems:

7. Voters in this highly Democratic precinct (85 percent registered Democrat) were pressured to use provisional ballots, not the standard punch-card ballots. About 25 percent of the voters at this site were first-time voters, and many did not know that their provisional ballot might never count. And what happened? Bush won Ohio by 130,000 votes, but there are still 155,000 uncounted provisional ballots, most from the bluest of blue precincts.

8. Late in the day, the Republican challenger started asking voters for additional identification, which meant that some people would have to go back home to get more ID. But the later it got, the less likely people would have time to get back in line before the polls closed. Many qualified voters left and never came back to vote.

9. At each polling place, the elections officials were required to post the number of voters so far that day two times. The first time was at 11:00 a.m. and the second time was at 4:00 p.m. The vote count that the presiding election judge reported both times did not correspond to the number of people we tracked going in and out of the polls.

11. Thirty minutes before the polls closed, the Republicans called the police on us again. While the police were questioning us, we noticed a very official looking guy, preppy and well-dressed, enter the polling site. This individual conferred with the Republican lawyer and made a series of phone calls from inside the polling site. As he was leaving, we confronted him and asked him who he was. “I’m a lawyer from the Bush team.” Of course. He refused to tell us his name, so we followed him out to his big shiny SUV, took down his license plate number, and reported him. Voter suppression tactics, such as these, can’t win you votes, but they can significantly drive down the votes on your side in areas where your opponent is sure to sweep whole precincts, making him less competitive overall, and adding power to your red county votes. Voter suppression tactics weren’t used in Red precincts because Bush needed every Red vote to count, and Republicans didn’t use them in highly contested precincts because these precincts were being closely monitored. But in the bluest precincts, especially poor inner-city precincts, many voters didn’t stand a chance.

More news from around Ohio:

- The Akron Beacon Journal (November 6, 2004) reported an error with an electronic voting system giving President George W. Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus. Earlier, on October 28, the Akron paper caught four Republicans falsifying more than 900 of the forms required to challenge Democratic voters. The Bureau of Justice has been contacted, and felony charges against all four are possible.

- According to the election day issue of the Cincinnati Post, absentee ballots in Hamilton County were sent to voters without listing Kerry/Edwards as a choice for president. Instead, where “Kerry/Edwards” should have appeared, the ballots read “CANDIDATE REMOVED.” Hamilton County election officials claimed to have corrected this problem by late October, but many of residents used these faulty ballots and sent them back to the Board of Elections as their official vote.

- The Vindicator (November 6, 2004) in Mercer County, Ohio, reported that thousands of votes disappeared on more than a dozen touch screen voting machines, but there is no paper trail and no way to re-count. Elsewhere in Mercer County, computerized voting machines broke down early on election day so elections officials advised voters to go home and come back later, but the machines were never repaired. Mercer County is also a blue county.

- And across the state, registered Democrats were phoned the evening before the election and given false information regarding their polling site and poll hours (Athens Messenger, November 3, 2004, Mansfield News Journal, November 2, 2004, The New York Times, November 1, 2004).

-The Cleveland Free Times reported on November 3 that Republicans started challenging more than 23,000 registered Democratic voters weeks before the election. Of those, 80 percent were from low-income Cuyahoga County, which are overwhelmingly pro-Kerry. Challenging so many Democrats in one county was so time-consuming for local Republicans that they tapped local Republican mayors and councilmen to help push the challenges.

- The Dayton Daily News (November 6, 2004) reported that the voting machine for at least one precinct “wouldn’t allow any votes for John Kerry,” and this machine was never fixed. The Dayton paper also reported that the Republican challengers stationed at the polling sites created significant tension between voters and voting officials, especially when some Republican challengers attempted to challenge every single voter in violation of the court order.

-The Mansfield News Journal reported (October 27, 2004) that Republicans challenged new voters in more than 75 percent of the counties in Ohio, while Democrats did not challenging anyone. Local elections officials claimed they have never seen a party challenge voters like this.

-The Warren Tribune Chronicle (November 3, 2004) reported that two Republican challengers were kicked out of a polling site in a heavily democratic precinct for harassing voters.

- News 5 in Lake County Ohio broke the story of hundreds of Lake County Democrats receiving letters stating that voter registration conducted by the NAACP was fraudulent and that their voting privileges were being revoked.

-And in Defiance, Ohio, the Crescent News (November 2, 2004) reported that Republican Challengers stationed at polling stations refused to give their names, even to the Democratic voters whom they were challenging.

This is all just in Ohio. Does all this mean that Kerry would have won the election? I have no idea. Maybe not. But I am convinced that the Republicans kept tens of thousands of Ohioans and hundreds of thousands of other voters nationwide from voting for Kerry in this election. And by keeping Kerry’s votes down, Bush didn’t just win; he is now claiming a “mandate” for his second-term agenda.

Federiconi, now the executive director of Autistic Services, Inc., looked at the pictures with the eye of an experienced professional. “Some of the children looked as if they might have autistic tendencies so I asked (the photographer) if there were any kids with autism. He was not sure, but felt there could be children with special needs. I asked, ‘Can Autistic Services help the project in some way?’” She was given the email address for a director of Hope and Homes for Children Romania, a United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization.

Federiconi told the director, “Our organization would like to help you if we can, especially to identify the autistic population and give you some resources. She said, ‘We don’t know what we need. Could you come here and tell us what we need?’”

An Adventure, Not a Tour

In July 2003, Federiconi made her first trip to Romania. She had been assured that, when she arrived at the Bucharest airport, Dragos, an English-speaking person, would be there to make sure that she safely boarded her train. Dragos, however, delegated the task to a friend, who spoke no English. The driver delivered Federiconi to the train station, handed her tickets, and left her at the door to fend for herself.

“There was a big marquee that tells you what trains were leaving for where. I couldn’t read any of it, of course.” Eventually, an English-speaking tour guide offered her to help her find her train, when it was due to arrive. He also offered her a tour, which she turned down. Federiconi waited for the train in a beer garden. Before long, she had two companions, an English-speaking man, who was traveling to Germany, and a woman, dressed in traditional Romanian clothing, who spoke no English.

After the man left, the woman talked nonstop to Federiconi in Romanian for an hour and a half. She also drank three beers that Federiconi had purchased for her. After she finished talking, she kissed Federiconi’s hand and left. Eventually, the tour guide put her on her train.

Federiconi traveled north through Transylvania for ten hours. At 4 a.m., not sure of where she was, she got off the train, where she encountered someone from Hope and Homes. The next day, she was told, “‘When we heard that Dragos didn’t pick you up, we figured that you were just lost.”

But Federiconi had made it to Maramures, and she returned two times, most recently in September 2004.

Visiting The Institutions

During her first visit, Federiconi saw the institutions. “I visited both of those institutions while kids were still in there and saw the conditions and the children,” she said. “What they are doing is closing down institutions. What they’re doing right now is very similar to what I worked in thirty years ago. Their first mission is to try to reunite the children with their families if the families are still around and can take them.” When reuniting children with their families is not an option, children are placed in foster homes or in small family homes.

Life for children in the large state-run institutions was very hard, Federiconi said. Many of them experienced neglect and abuse, which included beatings and being tied to metal beds for hours at a time. The result was the children suffered from the loss of sensory stimulation and from the effects of “never having been held or given any physical contact.” Federiconi described the population of the institutions as being mixed, with “typical children and special needs children.” Quite a few of the typical children had learning disabilities, caused by environment factors, Federiconi said. The special needs children exhibited autism tendencies, including difficulty in communication, social skills, and in recognizing social cues. The children also had difficulty relating to their environment. Some of the children were hypersensitive, shrinking away from touch and startling easily at noises and visual stimulation. Others were hyposensitive. These were the children who, when they could not find stimulation in their own environment, engaged in self-stimulation activities or in self-injurious behavior.

Federiconi said that, after experiencing the institutions, she could see that Autistic Services, Inc., could best help Hope and Homes by providing training to staff on working with special needs children by introducing “best practices, through staff trainings, consultations, program analysis, and implementation.”

“They were falling short of best practices,” she said.

Continuing The Process

Federiconi said that she is encouraged by the progress that she has seen in her subsequent visits to Romania. She has visited children in their homes. Even after not seeing her for six months, they remember who she is and they greet her by name, frequently waving the photographs of them that she had mailed to them. She said that her returning to see them means a lot because many professionals come once and never return.

“When I go to visit and I see the changes, it’s just amazing, especially having witnessed them while they were in the institution.”

Federiconi spends much of her time training managers, directors, and Child Protection staff. The trainings cover such subjects as maintaining best practices while working with children, sensory integration, autism, and behavior strategies. The people whom she trains, in turn, train the staff members who work directly with the children.

Federiconi has also had Romanians visit Western New York, for trainings and to see the work that Autistic Services, Inc., does with both children and adults with autism and related conditions. She said that, every time she visits Romania or Romanian professionals visit the United States, “Enthusiasm is growing and recognition is growing. That’s what it’s all about. I’m trying to teach key people so that they can teach their own people. I can’t continue to go there to teach their people. It should be that they teach one another. The people whom I’m training are the people who live there and can communicate with them.”

When enthusiasm does lag and when the Hope and Homes people and other Romanian staff see what a daunting task lies ahead of them, Federiconi reminds them that deinstitutionalization in the United States has been going on for more than thirty years and that the process is not yet over.

Recognition of the process has grown tremendously in Romania, where the collaboration between Hope and Homes and Autistic Services has received a great deal of media attention, much more than here in Western New York. Autistic Services.

Federiconi said that the lack of media attention in Western New York has been a disappointment. “We’re trying to bridge the children who are leaving institutions and going to other places to give them a second chance at life. I just want people to know that something good is coming out of Buffalo for some very, very needy children.”

Hope for the Future

Until recently, Federiconi was paying for many of her trips to Romania from her own pocket and with some assistance from Hope and Homes. She said that she was happy to donate her money for this cause.

“I’m very committed to working with this population. When you give your money for something like that, it feels good,” she said.

The collsboration between Autistic services, Inc., and Hope and Homes Romania has been successful, Federiconi said. The goal now is to replicate that success throughout Romania and other Eastern European countries, such as Bosnia, Croatia, Moldova, and Belarus. To continue the process, a new not-for-profit organization has been set up as a subsidiary of Autistic Services, Inc., called Bridges for New Beginnings, Inc. Its goals are to continue the deinstitutionalization process, to prevent the circumstances that caused children and young adults to be placed in institutions, and to establish a training center for professionals to learn about best practices. The goal of the training center ids to reduce abuse and neglect and to help in the transition process from institution to family-type alternatives.

Individuals who are interested in donating time, expertise, or money to Bridges for New Beginnings are encouraged to contact the organization at 4444 Bryant and Stratton Way, Williamsville, N.Y. 14221 or to call 631-5777 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When you get right down to it, Being Julia is a truly extraordinary one-woman show. Obviously, there are a number of other solid actors and actresses in it; all giving terrific performances, but it’s Bening who has to sell the movie. Fortunately, she owns it. She’s nothing less than glorious. The film may not be perfect, but Bening struts across the screen and makes it work. People who love the theater are probably going to love the movie. If you believe all the publicity, Buffalo is the fifth greatest center of theater in the universe, after New York, London, Toronto, and Chicago, which means there should be plenty of folks rushing out to see Bening and her delicious film. She plays a wildly famous 1930s London stage actress in this mostly dead-on adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel “Theatre.”

Bening is at times vain, giddy, haughty, loving, hilarious, neurotic, and sexually supercharged. She is an actress playing an actress who never stops acting, especially in her personal life. Bening’s Julia usually triumphs, but she does occasionally falter onstage, and is, depending on her moods, both convincing and obvious in her offstage manipulations. Why she is like she is a completely different matter. The movie never quite gets around to explaining Julia’s behavior. There’s no psychological resolution, but maybe there doesn’t have to be. Perhaps she is what she is because that’s the way she is. There’s nothing wrong with sitting back and enjoying what director Istvan Szabo and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have concocted: a delightfully glamorous and wonderfully witty backstage world.

At the start of the film, Julia, a diva who knows how to drape a mink over her shoulders with just the right note of insouciance, claims exhaustion. She asks her producer husband (Jeremy Irons) to stop the play in which she is currently starring. The request seems reasonable enough, but the reaction of everyone around her offers clues that Julia’s momentary whim falls into the “heard it all before” category. It certainly hints at her capricious temperament. Irons’ character feigns indulgence, but being very business-minded, he offers her a deal. He agrees to end the show, but not immediately. He believes, or knows, that she will change her mind. Julia’s devoted dresser and maid, played with entertaining good humor by Juliet Stevenson, has definitely heard it all before. In fact, she can mouth along to what Julia says as she complains about middle age, her lot in life, the weather, the audience, almost anything and everything. “The curtain has come down on Act 1, and I have no idea what happens in Act 2.”

One very refreshing aspect of the character, especially the way Bening plays her, is that Julia’s not completely self-absorbed. She’s a diva with an understanding that artifice isn’t everything. She can be sweet and warm and charming, and you can tell it’s not an act. She revels in the company of her theater friends and is honestly concerned about the emotional needs of her quite prescient teenage son (Thomas Sturridge). Julia is just a little less developed as a person than she is as a performer. The movie uses the conceit of her now-dead first, and much beloved, acting teacher (Michael Gambon) offering her advice on everything, sort of a whimsical angel-devil on her shoulder.

Much of the film revolves around Julia’s affair with a young American accountant who adores her acting and then adores her body. We’re soon in All About Eve territory. Tom is played by Shaun Evans, who we first see as cute and blond, but latter as cute and bland. Ah, callow youth. Evans acts the part with just the right understanding of his character’s place in the scheme of things. Julia’s open marriage allows her to cavort, and she is thrilled by the opportunity, and loves giving gifts. Tom is a puppy, nude and lusty, and is filled with eager advice for Julia. He tells her she could be in pictures, to which Julia responds, “Real actresses don’t make pictures,” an in-joke that Bening delivers with just the right note. But when Tom starts pushing the career of a willowy ingenue, Julia’s claws come out. Boy, do they ever. Tom and the ingenue haven’t got a chance.

It’s great watching the London diva swallow what Tom has to offer, but you know she’s smart enough to retain a touch of wariness. You love it when Julia giggles as those around her comment on her sexy sparkle. And you love it when she gets annoyed at Tom and decides she has to turn the tables.

It’s clear that Julia believes that Tom might be an accessory, sort of like the hats she wears. But she certainly knows how to get into the swing of things. As for her husband, well, I got the impression that it was he who opened the doors for the open marriage. Julia also has a dalliance with a chap named Charles (Bruce Greenwood), who ends up revealing something about himself that actually doesn’t surprise her. And hubby isn’t beyond the gentle shag or two. Theirs might be a marriage devoid of romance, but there’s still a lot of love left in it. And it sure does make for great dialogue. Listen for exchanges such as Julia complaining “I’m a bitch. Awful through and through.” “Nevertheless….” Irons begins in response. And as the producer in the relationship, he’s the only person on the planet who can tell her when she’s giving a bad performance.

Being Julia is beautifully photographed by Laos Koltai. The costumes and production values are top-notch. There’s not a dark view or bad outfit in the movie. This is a comedy, after all. As noted, the acting from everyone is sublime. Also enjoy appearances by Rita Tushingham, Rosemary Harris, Lucy Punch, Miriam Margolyes, Sheila McCarthy, Leigh Lawson, and Maury Chaykin, he himself a product of the University of Buffalo and our town’s avant-garde theater scene in the late 60s and early 70s.

Bening, of course, delivers nothing less than a tour de force.

The study entitled CHEERS (Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) pays participants up to $970 and offers them a free camcorder, free VCR, as well as t-shirts, calendars, bibs, and a framed Certificate of Appreciation. Participants are asked to “maintain” their normal pesticide applications throughout their home for two years. The EPA will monitor developmental changes in babies, from birth to 3 years, who are exposed to pesticides in their home. The study looks at 60 children, with less than 10% representing a control group, which consists of children that have low pesticide exposure, rather than no exposure at all.

The widespread use of toxic pesticides in homes is a serious threat to our children’s health. Many commonly used products contain ingredients that can affect the nervous system, cause birth defects, increase asthma rates and are suspected to cause cancer. “The EPA’s role is to protect infants and children from harmful pesticides, not encourage exposure!” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “CCE believes this study is unethical and dangerous to infants and children. We are sickened by the fact that the EPA views infants and children as acceptable test subjects. Frankly, we are appalled and horrified by the whole study ” Esposito added.

The study solicited participants from 6 health clinics and 3 hospitals in Jacksonville, Florida. According to the study, the 6 health clinics “primarily serve individuals with lower incomes” and the 3 hospitals report 51% of all births were to non-white mothers, with 62% of all mothers having only received an elementary or secondary education.
The selection criteria for the study requires that a participant must spray or have pesticides sprayed inside their home routinely. “This study solicits people that may be easily persuaded to maintain or increase their pesticide use to receive monetary and other forms of compensation,” stated Brian Smith, CCE Program Coordinator. “It has been clearly designed to target lower income families and to endanger the health of their children, making it grossly unethical,” Smith added.
The study has received $2 million in funding from the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies, including pesticide manufactures, leading one to question the motives of the study.

CCE has written to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to ask him to halt the study. “CCE believes that it is unethical that an agency set up to protect public health and the environment would advance a study designed to endanger the most vulnerable members of our society, infants and toddlers. This study must be stopped immediately so as not to set a precedent for future similar studies,” stated Esposito. “Once the study is stopped, CCE would welcome the unexpended dollars to be allocated to expand educational outreach on the dangers that pesticides pose to children and vulnerable populations,” Esposito concluded.

The EPA website on the CHEER study: http://www.epa.gov/cheers/

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) is an 80,000 member not for profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working to protect the pubic health and natural environment. For additional information please visit www.citizenscampaign.org

While the paranoid, delusional Christian right is doubtless applauding its minions’ efforts, organizations and individuals on the left like Move On and Michael Moore are pacifying their base with words of conciliation and sympathy, relentlessly remarking what a remarkable effort they made (Moore lists 17 reasons not to slit your wrists on his website). The fact that everything from the Redskins’ loss to the Red Sox’ win in sports forecasting analogies, and the overwhelming numbers of world leaders and citizens hoping for a Democratic victory had little or no effect on the outcome does not change the fact that America and the world are faced with four more years of unprecedented deficits and illegal wars, lost rights and opportunities, lies and deceitful corporate cronyism at the hands of the neo-cons pulling puppet Bush’s strings, or that America deserves everything that happens to it because of it. Even the 49 % of us who know better, but couldn’t stop it anyway are going to pay the price for the ignorance, superstition and government promoted paranoia of the other half. So much for the separation of church and state in American politics.

On the upside, the youth vote, which turned out in unprecedented numbers this year, was largely (55-45%) in favor of anyone but Bush, and even here in pre-civil war time-warped Virginia, that the city of Richmond came down on the right (left) side of the ballot demonstrates hope.

On the other side, the Democratic party, while fiscally solvent for the first time in decades and pulling it’s best numbers ever, is as dead as the squirrel carcass laying in the street in front of your house. The party died in 2000 when it bent over for Bush I’s Supreme Court coup, and hasn’t shown a pulse since. Ralph Nader was right. A third party needs to gather the disappointed and disenfranchised Dems and make a new choice (not the Republican-lite the Democrats have devolved into) that actually provides an option to the conservative, religious right, pro-corporate-profit clones that comprise the parties of the only two levers presently pullable.

Whatever happens, the important thing is that we keep this pre-election's political public discourse open and active so that mistakes like this can be corrected BEFORE they happen next time.

alexander graham

As we slide down this slippery slope to Election Day, it appears that this election may be too important for the voters to decide, as there seems to be no one candidate in the lead. The big guns of the two parties are now marshalling their forces to manufacture every vote they can.

The time for reason and logic are way behind us now. The time for a civil debate of the issues is long gone, buried under a bog of mud and slime. Other than the Red Sox reversing the curse, there has been no long anticipated ‘October Surprise’, which would give the average voter a legitimate chance to come out and toss the election one way or another with little or no conviction. No convenient terrorist attack, no Osama Bin Laden beheaded on the White House Lawn, No photographs of a coked-up George Bush machine-gunning fleeing Texas sharecroppers with his National Guard jet fighter.

Election 2000, The Sequel: “Steal it, Fair and Square!”

Karl ‘Rasputin’ Rove and his political Inquisition partner Dick Cheney realize they are going to have to steal it fair and square.

However, the Democrats are not going to sit idly by and allow the forces of the Dark Side to walk away with the most important prize in the history of the world, namely the White House and the power that goes with it. There will be no limp-wristed eleventh hour attempts such as the universally mocked ‘Mike Dukakis rides a tank episode’. Senator John Kerry didn’t kill people years ago and forget all about it.

The taste of political blood is in his mouth and he likes it. No doubt images of swift boats careening down the rivers of ‘Nam are flashing back as the young gun lieutenant living on the edge comes to mind. Complain all you like about John Kerry’s record in South East Asia, but he didn’t back down then and he’s not backing off now. A John Kerry Corps will be in the streets and at the polls on November 2nd, armed to the ideological teeth and looking for a fight.

Caught in the cross- fire will be the hapless and helpless voter. The first volleys have already been fired.

Forget the Red Sox, Is There A GOP Ballot Box Black Box?

What we can expect next Tuesday is the worst; a winner take all political knife fight, the tip of the blade poised on the throat of the electorate.

Up for controversy first is the technological fact of electronic voting machines. These are ATM like devices that will account for about 30% of the votes next Tuesday. Given the notion that computers are everywhere, it seems natural that their use could only streamline the system and reduce nasty stuff like hanging chads and butterfly ballots. But there are some problems with the system.

Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc., a major supplier of many voting machines has made no secret of his doing everything he can to get the President reelected. A sure conflict of interest seems to be present here, and it gets worse. Voting machine manufacturers are not allowing anyone to inspect the integrity of their systems as they fear industrial espionage and the like. There is also no protection from any sort of hacking, or against a tech from simply tampering with the machine and its record of votes.

Manufacturers are fighting attempts to allow machines to issue a printed receipt of the vote, a so-called paper trail. Without this paper trail, a recount in any close or contested election is not possible. The election official will have to take the word of the machine.

While the state of Nevada requires a paper trail, Georgia and Maryland do not. Monday in Florida, a federal Judge threw out a lawsuit requiring the state to issue the paper records, claiming no Constitutional grounds and also saying that touch screen machines ‘provide sufficient safeguards’.

Even so, the voters may not get close enough to a poll in any case.

Hey, Ho! Where’d You Go, Ohio?

The Columbus Dispatch has reported that many registered voters in Ohio have been getting telephone calls from bogus election workers informing voters that their precincts have changed or their polls have been moved to a different location. This scam is designed to kill votes in certain areas. Dozens of voters called the Board of Elections to report the calls. One wonders how many hundreds (or thousands) didn’t get the word and will be wandering willy-nilly across the political landscape come election day, unable to cast a vote.

Of course, a voter may arrive at the polls on Election Day only to discover that he or she does not exists. In several battle ground states republicans are being accused of simply destroying democratic registration forms. Arizona based Sproul and Associates, a consulting firm hired by the Republican National Committee has come under investigation in Oregon and Nevada and under fire in West Virginia and Pennsylvania . It is alleged that the canvassers the company hired were told to register only Republicans, and ‘get rid of’ any forms completed by Democrats. One Minneapolis hire quit after being told that if he registered democrats he would be fired.

Nathan Sproul, former chief of the Arizona Republican Party and Christian Coalition branch office, denies his company’s wrong doing. The RNC has paid Sproul and Associates $500,000 since July.

The RNC has complained that Democrats are behind these accusations Spokesman Heather Layman responded that Democrats operate to confuse declaring that their strategy could be reduced to the following slogan: “If no sign of voter fraud exists, make it up, manipulate the media into covering baseless charges and spread fear.”

But voters may be disqualified in the courts as well. The Ohio Republican Party has formally challenged the authenticity of 35,000 voter registrations across 65 counties. The contested registrations are voters with incorrect mailing addresses on their voting records.

Local election officials have until October 31st to investigate the charges, and are struggling to meet the Halloween deadline. Many democratic organizations have registered more than 600,000 new voters in Ohio alone, many with forged signatures, faked names, and other bogus information. The RNC seems to be taking no chances.

It’s Poll-Watcher-Palooza, Folks.

But even if the voter runs these gauntlets, he or she now has one more obstacle ahead, this one human and not administrative. Both Democrats and Republicans in many swing states have hired thousands to monitor the election. Most will be paid $100.00 to watch the voters themselves. From Arizona to Wisconsin election officials are preparing for a herd of politicos who will be challenging the authenticity and qualifications of voters them selves. Most states have just such laws in place, so these polling police cannot be kept away, but until this year they were rarely and seldom used.

Officials are terrified that Election Day polling activities can be slowed down for hours, with many voters discouraged or intimidated and frightened away. The Republicans claim they are there to weed out the bad voters, the Democrats claim they will be present to protect them.

These challengers will have the right to check if voters are over 18, US citizens, and a resident of that particular county for the required time.

And the nightmare gridlock could just be under way with weeks of recounts, court battles, and confrontations erupt. It seems that no matter the outcome, this election will never really be over.

Trick or Treat? Halloween Numbers Are Scary!!!

Since the end of the Democratic convention the poll numbers have closed ranks and refused to be moved. Here at Alt we track a dozen individual private sector and University polls, and given an occasional anomaly, the conclusion in the numbers is consistent. The Rasmussen Report, one week before the election, shows an astonishing 47.8% for Bush; an identical 47.8% for John Kerry with 1.5% responding ‘other’ and still 2.9% not sure.

The Democracy Corps Poll reports John Kerry slightly ahead with 49% versus George Bush’s 47%. A look to Reuters/Zogby gives an excellent example of a political ‘flip flop’ showing Bush in the lead with 49% to John Kerry’s 46%, but factor in the usual 3% or so margin of error and the poll becomes moot.

As they used to say in Chicago, vote early and vote often!!

But movies are the reality here and I’ll just walk you through what’s showing, offering a helpful hint or two to assist you in making your choices. New this weekend is Birth, an odd little entry in the psychological thriller sweepstakes that has very few thrills and hardly any psychology. Nicole Kidman’s husband dies while jogging. They are upscale Manhattanites with a tony address. Ten years later, a sweet little boy, all angelic looking, arrives to interrupt Kidman’s elderly mom’s birthday party. Mom is played by the always-solid Lauren Bacall. The boy announces he’s the incarnation of Kidman’s dead husband. “I’m Sean,” he says, and the movie rolls out from there. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t roll out much of anything. An attempt to reason with the kid fails. A talk with his father fails. Soon Kidman, who is set to marry a new husband, ludicrously believes the child and agrees not to marry Joseph, and ends up sharing a warm bath with the tyke. (This sequence got hoots of derision at the screening at the Venice Film Festival when the movie was shown). Anyway, Birth, which is directed by Jonathan Glazer who made Sexy Beast, isn’t much of anything. It isn’t clever, scary, or witty. Everyone talks in low tones and in clipped sentences. It’s all so portentous that it becomes pretentious. The ending is a crock of Halloween hooey. Avoid this one.

I (Love) Huckabees is a misguided mess, the kind of quirky muddle that plays mostly like rejected scenes from Being John Malkovich. The plot is pointlessly goofy and hopelessly lame. Suffice it to say that an environmentalist who plants trees in parking lots wants to stop the Huckabees chain of superstores from opening a mega-store in some marshland. The guy is played by lackluster actor Jason Schwartzman who looks more simian than anything else. He experiences some odd coincidences involving an African immigrant, so, looking for an explanation, he goes to see a pair of existential psychic therapists played by Lilly Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, neither of whom are funny for one split second. Tomlin does her usual tired old dithering ditz routine and Hoffman sleepwalks his part wearing a Moe Howard wig that only he could have thought was funny. Mark Wahlberg is around as a one-note, always-yelling, moronic firefighter, thus killing his fading career once and for all. Throw Jude Law into the mix as a Huckabees executive and Naomi Watts as a commercial model for the super chain and you end up with an offbeat blob of a tale that lacks coherence, energy, or a mind of its own. David O. Russell directs as if he’s seen every Marx Brothers movie and forgot the good parts.

As you read this week’s issue of ALT you might be able to catch a true masterpiece at the North Park Theater. The folks at the Dipson Chain told me the film will then be moving downtown to the Market Arcade for another week’s run, so catch it where and while you can. The movie is Federico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita from 1960; simply put, one of the greatest movies ever made. Marcello Mastroianni plays a tabloid journalist up to his eyeballs in sleaze and cheese. He’s bored with all the wild parties and is looking for some explanations for his lot in life and maybe an understanding of where he’s heading. This is a newly restored print of La Dolce Vita, and when you see sex goddess Anita Ekberg dancing in the Trevi Fountain, you’ll know why the film’s called “the sweet life.” Don’t miss this chance to see a truly great movie the way it was meant to be seen.

Director John Waters is up to his old tricks with A Dirty Shame, a sex-filled romp about a repressed housewife who gets conked on the head and turns into a sex fiend, only to be confronted by her town’s self-anointed sex police. The madcap movie is all over the place and the gags are hit and miss, but even scattershot Waters is better than no Waters at all. Starring Tracey Ullman, Selma Blair, Johnny Knoxville, and Chris Isaak.

In my Toronto Film Festival story I highly recommended The Motorcycle Diaries, a chronicle of Ernesto Che Guevara’s 1951 trip with his best friend (both in their early 20s) through South America before Guevara became the “Che” of the revolutionary banners. The movie, from Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles, has good performances from Gael Garcia Bernal as Che and Rodrigo de la Serna as his medical student pal. Guevara learns a lot about the haves and the have-nots on his journey, thus formulating his future writings and teachings. An entertaining and interesting road trip.

As also previously noted, Maria Full Of Grace is the only – you read that right – ONLY, movie of the past two decades that I viewed without once checking my watch. It’s that good. This tale of poor Colombia women who become drug mules only to be trapped in New York City is both shocking and cautionary. Brilliantly acted by Catalina Sandina Morena as the primary drug courier, the film, written and directed by Joshua Marston, is very nearly perfect. It will anger you, sadden you, and hopefully, enlighten you.

I like actors Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini, so it’s painful to watch them in the excruciatingly unfunny Surviving Christmas, which arrives too early to matter much for the Christmas season. Affleck plays a wealthy guy alone at the holidays who rents out a family with whom he can spend time at Christmas. A comedy without laughs is the worst kind of gift. Instead of hanging the stockings on the fireplace with care, somebody should have hung the director Mike Mitchell and his four screenwriters without care.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s only noticeable talent is survival, is the star and heroine of The Grudge, a remake of the Japanese horror film Ju-On: The Grudge (2003) by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed this newest version, which was rushed into theaters. The movie follows some hapless Americans in Tokyo (Gellar, Jason Behr) who end up in a house in which strange things happen. There are limited shocks (except the silly jump-from-behind-a-wall kind), and there is no discernible style.

Murder in Green Meadows tells the story of Thomas Devereaux, an architect and contractor who has just finished a development in Green Meadows, Illinois. He and his wife Joan have just moved into the original model home. They become fast friends with their neighbors, Carolyn and Jeff Symons. Their interactions reveal the personality quirks of the four characters. Under the perfect middle-American exterior, some troubling questions remain. The dark humor and sinister suspense are somewhat reminiscent of the new television drama that has become somewhat of an overnight sensation, Desperate Housewives. Murder in Green Meadows features Lauren Bone, Ian Lithgow, Kristen Kos, and Paul Todaro.

The performance runs from Friday October 22 at 8pm to Sunday November 14 at 2pm. Ticket prices range from $24-$52 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 716-856-5650 or 1-800-77STAGE or online at www.studioarena.org.

Flag tatoos. Flags on your mom's car. Flag pins on the label of your boss' jacket. People who took their poodles for a patriotic haircut. An entire industry was created around the sudden demand for flags. Companies jumped on the bandwagon with thickly patriotic-sounding promotions and products.(Jeep branded it's new car Liberty, for instance; it was originally going to replace the Cherokee. Internally, before 9/11, it was called the "KJ platform.")

But why? Why were the majority of us thickly sarcastic of our government, our country, and patriotism in general on 9/10/2003, and then on 9/12/2003, we turned into a bunch of flag-waving head-nodders?

Fear.n Fear is the reason.

Everyone was afraid of the next House Un-American Activities Committee like we had in 1977. No one wanted to be accused either socially or legally of being a potential terrorist. Critics nation-wide suddenly felt fearful that their neighbors would turn on them. Innocent people were rounded up and put into a concentration camp (ala Camp X-Ray/Camp Delta). (The are still there, by the way, after over two years of being wrongly imprisoned.) We freely let the freedoms that we claim to hold dear be violated and walked all over, the freedoms this country was founded on, the freedoms that just over 200 years ago men fought to gain, because we were afraid. We The People bent over and took it up the ass.

So now things are quieting down. We can come back out and start looking at the government objectively again. We don't have to stand "shoulder-to-shoulder." The shock of this "unprecedented" event (which had been preceded by other events, throughout our nation's history) has finally worn off.

And another thing that has been worn off by time and nature are all the little flags that had been mass-purchased. Surprise, that 5 dollar flag didn't hold up very long. Actually, it probably held out longer than the purchaser's feigned patriotism.

So now there's a new, more-patriotic-than-thou movement. People dug out and blew the dust off the US Flag Code, and are now angry at all the worn and torn flags everywhere, pointing the "Look! He's not really patriotic!" finger at any person who hasn't replaced his flag. Now either:

A. Holy shit, they are still scared of HUAC returning from the dead.

B. They really are that anal and patriotic.

C. These people really need to get a life.

D. All of the above.

I mean, they are missing the whole point. All of those flag wavers were never patriotic in the first place. If they were, they would have had the flag on their SUV BEFORE they felt that having it was a necessity in order to fit in with all their yuppie golf buddies.

There are a few misconceptions that I'd like to discuss about the flag code. It's not a law. It's a code of etiquette, just like keeping your elbows off the table. Its proper manners to fold the flag in triangles, but if you fold it up like a beach towel and keep it in your garage until the next Independence Day, then who cares, really?

But these people care--because there IS such a thing as a flag code, and they have nothing better to do than try to police it.

Let's talk about flags.

A flag is a symbol. A flag is not the thing it represents.

Just like my signature does not represent me. If you burn something with my signature on it, or tear it up, or stomp on it, I will still be here the next day. (And I'd probably laugh at you, actually.)

It's the same thing with a flag. It's a piece of cloth.

This is the problem with symbols; people start valuing the symbol more than the symbol's meaning.

The most patriotic thing that we can do is keep our government in check. If anyone actually took the time to READ the Declaration of Independence, or any other parts of the US Constitution beyond the Bill of Rights, you'd know that's exactly what we are supposed to do. We aren't supposed to ask the government how we should act, we should be telling them how we want to be governed.

Sigh.... VOTE... VOTE... VOTE!!!

EVERY SINGLE LIBERAL IN THIS COUNTRY WHO IS OF VOTING AGE BETTER GET THEIR ASS TO THE VOTING BOOTH THIS YEAR AND GET THIS ASSHOLE OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE. Going out and raging in the streets after the election results didn't go the way you had hoped because you were sitting on your hands November 2nd doesn't do one lick of good.

You want activism? Why? Because you like the sound of looting and raging against cops? You want to take direct action, you get your ass to that goddamn voting booth and do something that actually matters, because to the guys in the limos who you are shouting at, you are just riff raff who's opinion doesn't really matter. Because you didn't vote.

The conservatives have us beat, because they view it like a fucking mission from god to go hit those switches. Well, now you have a fucking mission. I'm not asking you to Rock the Vote or some MTV bullshit.

Get educated about it, make the wise decision. I don't care if you decide the best judge in your area ISN'T the guy who's waving the donkey flag. Just get in there and vote. Vote with wisdom, vote with caution, and goddamn it, encourage other people to do the same. You don't have to get into politics and CONVINCE anyone WHO to vote for. But you should certainly convince people TO vote, and moreover, make an EDUCATED vote.

And you should start right fucking now.

This investigation was, not surprisingly, obstructed by HUD. Freedom of Information requests were returned with incomplete information. One person familiar with problems in the Section 108 program told Alt that a similar request filed by Jim Heaney of The Buffalo News also went nowhere.

A Tale of Two Cities – Hoboken and Buffalo According to a Department of Justice press release, in June of this year, Hoboken, NJ based developer Joseph Barry, “… pleaded guilty to making cash payments totaling $114,900 to former county Executive Robert Janiszewski, in connection with federal and state funding for the Barry company’s Shipyard project in Hoboken, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.”

This case also involved abuse of the Section 108 program. Barry was guilty of making a large cash kickback, a bribe to a friendly, generous politician. What if he had instead, funneled payment through legal sources such as campaign contributions, political fundraisers or even one of the new fangled 527’s that have been spewing political vitriol across America’s TV screens since the so-called McCain-Feingold reform?

The most damning evidence that the Feds were able to obtain was a “payoff list” of bribes that Janiszewski had accepted. Janiszewski, then cooperated with the investigation by wearing a wire. Like Masiello, Janiszewski’s inner circle included boyhood friends who encouraged this sort of “old boy” network. But the question remains, if the bribes Janiszewski received, were redirected into the form of legal campaign contributions, would anyone have been the wiser?

According to our sources, one of Tony Masiello’s longtime political supporters, Harry Williams, had failed to repay, as of last year, a $600,000 Section 108 loan that had been awarded to his restaurant, Harry’s Harbour, as of last year.

Although Williams had supported the political campaigns of the Mayor, such contributions are, in no way, to be construed as bribes. Would that money have been better spent on another business with no ties to the Mayor? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. Will there be any repercussions for Williams failure to pay on the loan provided through his friend’s political influence? Apparently, not.

Another similiarity between the Masiello Administration and the Hoboken story is the questionable redirection of 108 funds into pet projects. In the case of the Pillar’s Hotel project, it was obvious that the City would be stuck with millions of dollars in bad debt. Rather than rule that the loan was in default, over $300,000 was provided to the company to help with “corporate rebranding.”

In the case of the Pillars Hotel, there was major political pressure to keep the cash trough filled because of its association with the much ballyhooed “Buffalo Medical corridor.”

Including both private health care providers such as Kaleida and the formerly public facility of Roswell Park Cancer Institute under the aegis of the government-sponsored Medical Corridor initiative set the tone for the continued taxpayer investment in a money-losing private business.

In Hoboken, the effort to go over-budget for friends was also there. Again, it’s doubtful that this would have raised any eyebrows had it not been for the existence of a payoff list. Think: political contributions good. Bribes, bad.

The Department of Justice in outlining another case of Section 108 abuse stated that, “…An additional $1 million Economic Development Initiative grant was awarded by HUD to the Hudson County government. HUD originally earmarked the funds for use in a proposed hotel in Jersey City, but through a request by Janiszewski as county executive, the money eventually went to an already approved Section 108 loan guarantee application for the Shipyard project.”

In wrapping up the Government’s successful prosecution of Barry, U.S Attorney Christopher Christie stated that, “This is a very satisfying result for the government. Political corruption is a way of life in Hudson County, and we are determined to put an end to it. Using his considerable resources, Mr. Barry helped corrupt the corruptible and added further to the criminal atmosphere that exists in Hudson County government.”

Of course, political corruption appears to be a way of life here in Buffalo, as well. It appears, however, that politicians and favored developers are on the same page here, and that page is not a detailed payoff sheet that will lead to an open and shut case for Federal investigators. As long as Tony Masiello remains a staunch supporter of Gov. Pataki and his anti-labor initiatives with the Buffalo’s Control Board, it is unlikely that Tony and his cronies will find themselves in the same sort of hot water that cooked their counterparts in that other paragon of civic ineptitude, Hoboken, NJ.

Sideways is slowly working its way to a theater near you. The release studio, Fox Searchlight, is letting word-of-mouth build and will open the movie wide some time this autumn. Ray, on the other hand, will have opened when you read this review and you are well advised to head for a theater and see it for the reason mentioned; Foxx is superb.

Regarding movies, a terrific stretch of acting can wake even the most desultory audience members out of their slumber. Bad movies are still bad, but the suffering is lessened when a performer latches onto a character’s quirks and runs with them. Banal becomes boisterous. Ray might not be everything director Taylor Hackford believed he was making, but Foxx goes so deeply inside the man and his music that he and Ray Charles seem to be one unique person.

Foxx’s stunning, occasionally humorous, often daring, and always honestly felt performance is the stuff of Hollywood legend. He’s that good. A skilled pianist and music-maker in his own right, Foxx honors Charles with his keyboard work. And in a smart decision, Foxx doesn’t sing on the soundtrack, but lip-syncs to Charles’ foot-stomping vocals on hits such as “Unchain My Heart, “I Got a Woman,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and “What’d I Say.” When he isn’t singing, Foxx easily shifts from song to dialogue with a grace and believability that suggests he’s channeling Charles instead of mimicking him. He also avoids faux acting notes, never reducing the singer’s hardscrabble childhood to tear-jerking silliness. Instead, Foxx gets close to the bone, cutting to the solid emotional core of Charles’ life story: his dirt-poor Georgia roots, his blindness from glaucoma around the age of seven, his marital infidelities, his battles with racism, his 20-year heroin addiction, and his ruthless business dealings. Early in his career, after one music promoter stiffed him in the cash department, Charles insisted that he be paid in singles, thus being able to count his pay without worrying about being cheated.

From his birth in 1930 to his recent death from liver disease, Charles was a tough customer and a handful to both raise and live with. His mother, well played by Sharon Warren, took in laundry, and no matter how difficult times were, she never coddled her son, even after he became blind, believing as she did that he needed to experience life as it rolled out. Using flashbacks that sometimes get away from director Hackford, the movie never hesitates to reveal the roughness of Charles’ existence. He saw his brother drown in a tub of boiling wash water. When blindness overtook Ray, his mother insisted he lean on his other senses. These moments give the film a harsh reality, but lets us know why the older Charles rarely offered trust to others and never, ever, used a red-tipped cane or a guide dog. The flashbacks have impact, but there are too many of them and the framing of the film gets fragmented. Hackford, director of An Officer And A Gentleman and La Bamba among other works, crams an awful lot into the movie’s 152-minute running time. Unfortunately far too much of it deals with what would be considered “early” Ray Charles and not enough flows about the successful period of the singer’s career, the years when he was an icon. Weirdly, the film ends with a jolt. Suddenly it’s over and there are title cards to report on what seems like 40 years of Charles’ amazing life. This is absolutely unsatisfying and raises key questions about the movie. Should there have been less material about all the women in his life? The point that he cheated on his wife is made and understood. The heroin addiction sequences seem endless and a tad goofy. There were moments when it actually seemed as if Hackford made the dumb decision to shake the camera to represent drug mania. Either that, or the special effects are so amateurish that it looks as if the camera’s being shaken. Where the movie scores high is with the scenes of Charles and his music, as when he’s on the road making a name for himself playing vibrant jazz in Seattle, and, as mentioned, demanding that singles comprise his payment. Charles, who brilliantly blended the blues and gospel music to become the genius of soul, also had the savvy intuition to become a negotiation genius. He has a rigid toughness and a genuine, almost sublime, understanding of his worth. The sequence where he gets rid of his powerful mentors at Atlantic Records (Jerry Wexler played by Richard Schiff and Ahmet Ertegun played by Curtis Armstrong) and replaces them for a new label (ABC-Paramount), so he could own the master recordings, is solid stuff.

As for Foxx, watch him as he shows how Charles could flash a childlike smile or hug himself with joy to mask the harshness found in his personality. You admire both Foxx’s acting and the fact that Charles has goals he was determined to achieve. The rest of the cast is equally up to the task. Charles’ wife Della Bea, beautifully acted by Kerry Washington, had to endure the pains of being married to a man who slept around and around and around. Charles loved women, and he could tell what kind of body a female had by fondling her wrist. Regina King is fantastic as Margie Hendricks, the tempestuous backup singer Charles had sex with and then discarded. The weaknesses in Ray are the result of a screenplay by Hackford and newcomer James L. White that occasionally wallows in trivial cliches and the feature runs on too long or seems to because of the aforementioned emphasis on drugs and sex. Fortunately, the music breaks through and Foxx’s stirring performance captures just enough of Ray Charles to make the movie accessible and entertaining. The first time you hear Charles’ singing, you can’t help but appreciate the sounds, and if you listen to the lyrics, you’ll hear wonderful stories in those songs. The film pulls you in right away. Its weaknesses with a surfeit of biographical cliches are greatly overcome when it dramatizes Charles’ musical influences. When Ray examines the changes in Charles’ style and how his fans reacted to these changes and delighted in them, when it exalts in the glory of his music, it soars.

"Partisan, biased material marketed as 'news' is increasingly contaminating our airwaves and democracy," said Rep. Slaughter. "Our democracy depends on an informed electorate. The media is crucial to supporting the free exchange of ideas and providing thorough coverage of the important issues facing our nation. The American public owns the airwaves. Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine would return integrity to the media and ensure that the American public is adequately informed on all points of view. I encourage all Americans to visit www.fairnessdoctrine.com to help us fight for this vitally important doctrine."

"Political discussion on our nation's airwaves has reached an all-time low," said Tom Athans, Executive Director of Democracy Radio. "Divisiveness and the politics of demonization and personal destruction dominate our airwaves and only serve to divide our nation deeper and deeper. For this reason alone, we should fully consider reinstating The Fairness Doctrine." Rep. Slaughter's bill, the Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America Act, or MEDIA Act, would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to ensure that broadcasters "afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance." The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the Federal Communications Commission between 1949 and 1987 that required radio and television stations to provide all sides of important or controversial issues and give equal time to political candidates. The Reagan Administration then abolished the policy, with President Reagan vetoing a bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress in support of it.

Since the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine, the nation has seen a dramatic increase of partisan news sources "reporting" biased news with no consequences. Sinclair Broadcasting Inc., a giant media conglomerate with ties to the Bush Administration, recently announced it would air an anti-John Kerry "documentary" on all its affiliates, which reach 25 percent of the population. Only after experiencing intense public outcry, a boycott and sinking stock prices did Sinclair agree to scale back its plans.

"Sinclair and other broadcasters use the public airwaves free of charge," said Rep. Slaughter. "It's their responsibility to serve the public interest and adhere to the highest standards of broadcasting. Airing blatantly political programming is a breach of the public's trust."

According to a Media Matters poll, likely voters overwhelmingly support rules restoring "balance" and "fairness" to the airwaves. When asked if TV and radio stations that use public airwaves should be required to present both sides of an issue, 77 percent of respondents said they should. In addition, 74 percent of conservatives and 71 percent of Republicans say that TV and radio stations should be required to present the issues in a balanced manner. Another Democracy Radio survey showed that 90 percent of all broadcast hours on talk radio are fairly characterized as conservative.

Speakers will address the importance of these wetlands for water quality, flooding prevention, and wildlife habitat. They will hold the State Senate responsible their inability to pass the Clean Water Protection/Flooding Prevention Act, which would have better protected the area after recent rollbacks in federal protection, and call on the Senate to pass the legislation when they return to Albany.

For More Information: Sarah Kogel-Smucker, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, 917-414-2427

Directions from Buffalo: 402 Seneca Place, Lancaster, NY. Take Route 33 to Transit; take a right on Transit; take a left on Pleasantview Drive; take a right on Central Ave.; take a left on Seitz; take a left onto Seneca Place and follow to the end of the street.

Sarah Kogel-Smucker Legislative Associate/ Conservation Assistant Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter P: 518-426-9144 F: 518-426-3052

"One kind of evidence for that is that candidates never campaign as war candidates. Lyndon Baynes Johnson, who kept us in Vietnam, promised not to go to war in Vietnam. You can see that again and again. Candidates always campaign as peace candidates.

"Another kind of evidence is that antiwar movements -- popular opinion against wars expressed in marches and demonstrations -- has rarely succeeded at the outset. It's as the war grinds on and people become more and more angry and disillusioned with the war that popular opinion, popular resistance to the war begins to take its toll on the capacity of government to make war. So in a way the antiwar movement is being too impatient. They expect to win too easily."

So do we just keep doing what we are doing and look forward with bated breath for that fateful day? Hardly. What the current antiwar movement has done so far, she says, is express opinion. "They marched in large numbers, they rallied, and it was a kind of voting, voting in the streets. I think a successful antiwar movement has to act in ways that throw sand in the gears of the war machine. Resistance has to be more serious."

Sand in the Gears

What Piven means by "more serious" we can see in some of her published research with political scientist Richard A. Cloward, especially The Politics of Turmoil and Poor People's Movements, with its subtitle "How They Succeed, Why They Fail." "There are always lessons for movements in the history of movements," says Piven. "And the most important lessons have to do with the conditions under which movements exert leverage, exert power. This is not a question that is directly asked in most of the literature on movements." but Piven and Cloward do address it.

In every case they examine, movements found their concerns fell on deaf ears until they directly disrupted 'business as usual' either in government or business operations, and then they made significant gains. When unemployed workers sat in at relief offices, for example, local officials somehow found the money to pay them benefits. Also when participants created chaos on the local level, officials noticed at the state and federal levels and began to make concessions and even to advocate for the protestors' causes. Furthermore, and contrary to conventional wisdom, these efforts lost ground quickly as soon as they changed their methods to more acceptable means to achieve their ends: negotiating through representatives, working with candidates, helping them get elected, lobbying and so on. The first signs of popular discontent had been seen at the polls, Piven and Cloward point out, but the candidates elected as a result only paid lip service to movement sympathies. Once in office, their actions fell well short of needed reforms. This was true both before and after disobedient groups created crises in which they would be heard.

It remains to be seen what effect popular dissatisfaction with the war will have at the polls, but it should be abundantly clear by now that the work of the antiwar movement will not be over with this election, no matter who wins. And if history is any guide, it seems, things may have to get ugly.

"There are numerous ways in which popular resistance could express itself," Piven says. "You know, all the war material has to be shipped overseas. And it's working people everywhere who have to do the shipping, who have to do the hauling." Such methods involve great personal and political risk, as Piven acknowledges, but a "serious" antiwar movement must look at what works and what doesn't work. Get Out the Vote Nor is the lesson here that we should ignore elections. At times when voting was much more restricted, a direct challenge to authority could easily result in massacre, lynching or other violent or dismissive responses. But when poor and working class people are allowed to vote and do mobilize around their concerns and turn out to vote, Piven and Cloward found, governments were much more responsive to social movements. And under the present circumstances, Piven thinks a Kerry administration would be, too. She points out the recent surge in voter registration in communities of color, poor neighborhoods and among students. "Of course it could end up that we'll get a surge of several percentage points, Kerry will be elected, and if he disappoints these people by his policies, then the surge will recede and we'll go back to our fifty percent turnout rate."

Or the antiwar movement, along with the movements for healthcare, living wage and others, could raise the stakes and seize the opportunity to pressure the new administration into making real progress. With this in mind, she says, "I think we should work to get Kerry and Edwards elected, and after that, if Kerry and Edwards are elected, we should raise hell." Ricky Baldwin (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is an activist, organizer, writer and father of twins in Urbana, IL. His articles have appeared in Dollars & Sense, Z Magazine, In These Times, Extra!, and Labor Notes.

Born and raised in Philly, PA the easy mix and readily accessible comfort ability of the quiet suburbs and the howling city is at its worst soothing and familiar. I love Buffalo! I love her magnificent building structures and her tremendous political history.

What I do not understand however, is why Buffalo fails to love me, a converter to its norms, in return. And sadly, I find that it is no just my self.

For the past seven almost eight months I have been trying to earn and establish a life in this city I now love. And for almost thirty-two weeks I have been repeatedly let down and shut out. Finding employment, and more seriously a career, in this city is soul-wrenching and impeccable with its ability to breakdown will and character. My friends and my self, freshly educated and sufficiently experienced, are not good enough!

Many businesses, large and small, public and private, are harsh to the “lack” of experience offered by recent graduates. Our community service, academic honors, volunteer and internship activities are simply not enough to obtain an entry-level position anywhere here. Many alumnus agree with me when I say that we’ve applied to countless (although I have mine alphabetized) places, often for the most menial jobs and have been handed the awful hand of chastisement and the cruel verdict of not good enough.

What sparked my written concern, along with my own pains and frustrations, was overhearing a students’ conversation near Canisius College. A friend of hers, the student, was moving to Atlanta, GA where he had obtained employment after bouncing around in Buffalo since May 2003. This junior student, a native of Buffalo unlike her friend, was already planning to leave Buffalo because of “how hard it is to fulfill your career objectives” here.

Many young graduates from all the universities in Buffalo and her surrounding wardens have left or are planning their leave immediately upon graduation. We can not take it anymore! Mother Buffalo is merciless! We’ve been coaxed and conned into this loving relationship only to eventually be let go as an expendable casualty.

This is a sickness, rapid and disastrous to our city, her heritage, and her growth. Since I love this city, and am proud with my fondness, I am begging this city’s’ keepers to let us in! The young flourishing and definitely capable future of Buffalo are leaving or have left already. And with such resentment as to never return, not even to visit. Our continuity is at stake!

Soon there will be no one with respectable personalities and credentials to maintain our sacred establishments and individual treasures. Please, think twice and productively about your decisions and hiring processes and once again open the doors to your future.

Just check out the abridged edition of my textbook from McGraw-Hill, Retrofitting for Energy Conservation to see just how easy this "eXtreme technology" really is... The illustrations on this website are a real hoot + the first paragraph of each chapter excerpt will give you a whole new perspective on the construction industry...

The #2 concern of Americans is jobs. Energy conservation will put people back to work - in good, high paying jobs. I'll do that right now, without any government regulations at all. I have a simple Excel spreadsheet that does official annual building heating and cooling calculations called The Energy Auditor (This is a self extracting zip file, size 114.7 Kb, that extracts to a file named energy.xls) A simple building is already input so you can play with the numbers right away to see how powerful the program is. All the tables you need are included; no engineering or construction experience is required. It only takes a couple of hours to figure everything out and to create professional quality results. The spreadsheet has almost 400 U.S. cities already input; so anybody in America can do a fast, accurate energy audit. It also has every U.S. military base overseas input, so service members can save energy too...

Reducing energy use means the power grid won't have to be upgraded to avoid more blackouts; that'll save the $1 trillion that is needed to upgrade school buildings to just 1990 code standards. Reducing energy use means a better trade deficit, a healthier economy, energy independence, less Arab terrorism, lower long term interest rates, lower school and other taxes, lower inflation, a cleaner environment, higher corporate profits, higher wages, higher stock markets. Best of all, energy conservation means good, quality professional jobs all over the nation ~ when the only thing Washington can generate now are low paying jobs in the service industries...

Building energy efficiency enforcement will bring the U.S. into compliance with the Global Warming Treaty and that will gratify our European allies whom we alienated by invading Iraq. The U.S. military is the single largest user of energy in the world. Conserving energy will free resources for operations in Iraq. It will also make energy more affordable for all the third world countries struggling to industrialize. America grew up on $5/barrel oil ~ third world nations now are trying to become prosperous on $50/barrel oil. They need our help and leadership. There are so many other positives that it's criminal that the government has not ever considered the idea, or that industry has consistently lobbied against it...
I know, it sounds radical, but let’s consider it.

First: No one will argue with you about English and math being important. One in five people in Buffalo are functionally illiterate. People need to understand how to read and write. This will be a slam dunk. People need to understand how to compute numbers without the use of a calculator or an abacus. No one will argue these.

Second: You shouldn’t have too much difficulty selling the history or science aspect of education. Believe it or not, hands-on experimentation in a science lab actually does promote learning in the student. We have studied it relentlessly, and, when students have something to work on (a Bunsen burner, a live specimen, etc), it fosters intellectual growth in ways that pictures don’t. It will be a breakthrough in education.

In regards to history and foreign language, history adds exponentially to a student’s knowledge of the world. Foreign language classes not only add language understanding, but it may (we aren’t positive), but it may, add cultural empathy to students which helps in our growingly diverse nation.

“Why do they need to understand the world?” you’re still asking.

Well, figure this: students will be eighteen at some point in their lives, probably when they turn eighteen. And then they can vote. I think I want to know that the people who are voting know what happened during events like the great depression and Watergate, or even current events like the war on terror and Iraq.

Third: Art, Physical education, and (whisper as to not alarm too many people) recess and free time. I’m not sure how I can convince you, because I often wonder if people even understand what these elements of education are, but all of these are vital to cultivating growing children (both physically and mentally). I won’t dare mention after school activities. Oh shoot, I just did. These activities work in allowing a student to free their mind from the contained curriculum pounding at them from the state. They learn that not only does light consist of seven different colors, but it also burns your skin if you stand in it too long.

But education today forgets that.

Therefore, I have proposed this radical new educational plan in an attempt to revitalize Buffalo’s educational system. I know it is radical, even shocking, but for some reason I have a premonition that this could work.

But that’s just a request. I also have an idea for a “pirate themed” school. You’ll probably snatch that one right up.
Section 108: Enough to Drive Taxpayers Section 8

In the fall of 2002, outgoing Representative John LaFalce requested a report from HUD on the way that aid money coming into Western New York was being disbursed. In an Alt Press article about the Masiello administration’s myriad problems administering HUD from 2002, the red flag over Section 108 was raised:

“…A concern raised in the study showed problems with debt servicing. Section 108 loans are commonly used to provide loans to a third party to fund eligible Community Development Block Grant activities, but in Buffalo, there have been unusual problems with this program as well. The report stated, ‘The city allocated $17.807 million for repayment of Section 108 loans over the last five years. This represents 16.5 percent of its total CDBG funds, a level more than five times the national average.’

“Not surprisingly, a breakdown of these repayments shows that almost ten million dollars of that repayment was for economic development projects. Yet administration officials said that expenditures for the purpose of addressing ‘slum and blight’ would be included under the category of economic development.

“So, even though the study pointed out certain areas that were way off the charts, there were plenty of excuses as to why these apparent problems were not the problems that they appeared to be.” Debt Service: The Gift That Keeps Taking

When government gets involved in economic development, decisions on funding are not made from a business investor’s point of view. They are made from a public policy standpoint. The public policy of city government in Buffalo has long been based on the precepts of Tammany Hall. Political patronage is the prime directive; debt service is a tertiary consideration, at best.

So the legacy of political gifts became a ball and chain for future administrations. This legacy of the mayor and his cronies is one that will keep giving, or rather taking from taxpayers, for a long time to come.

Not long after the LaFalce report came out, Washington took control of the HOME HUD program away from the mayor. People familiar with HUD locally, who discussed delinquent Section 108 loans with us, said that this was a serious problem as well. A FOIA request that Alt Press filed was returned, showing a partial list of only good, current loans, despite the fact that we asked to see all of the loans.

That’s probably because words such as “delinquent,” “foreclosure,” and “bad” were not used, especially with friends of Tony. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to determine the status of many of these loans. We have been able to obtain a partial list of bad debt from last year through other sources, however. We’d like to share a few of the highlights and lowlights from this list, as the Masiello era begins to recede in the rear view mirror, along with the Super Zoo, the “Deathstar” Convention Center, and, of course, the Buffalo Byte Belt.

The Former Pillars Hotel - Med Inn Centers of America LLC

Alt Press has documented the problems at Roswell Park Cancer Institute that culminated in the collapse of half of all research programs at that facility. We showed how political patronage shaped the direction under two successive directors with strong Republican roots. A decision was made to start marketing cancer treatment at Roswell to wealthy out-of-towners. Experimental treatments long provided to the public at nominal cost by the government-funded institution were now available only to those who could pay. To the brain trust at Roswell, it made sense to ask the cash-strapped city to use precious federal aid money to build a hotel for families of cancer patients (or customers, in MBA-speak) on the campus of Roswell. Was there a big enough market in cancer patients to justify this investment? In hindsight, it was not. Of course, little market research was done in advance, and the hotel funding was obviously predicated on a best-case scenario.

Several years after the hotel was completed, the BERC was stuck with a bad loan of $9.5 million. Even while Med Inn should have been considered in default of its BERC loan, the BERC gave the group an additional three hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the purpose of “corporate rebranding.” It’s now a Doubletree operating under the Hilton Hotel chain, but the debt and the debt servicing, remains. The BERC should have foreclosed, but they apparently didn’t want to be in the hotel business. Why be in the hotel business when you can be in the “throw good money after bad” business?

In all likelihood, the mayor was only trying to support his friend, Gov. George Pataki, with this deal. Will this loss ever be leveraged into state money for Buffalo? Not if the governor’s recent budget vetoes are any indication.

Harry’s Harbour Place

Harry Williams is a longtime supporter of the mayor. His restaurant, Harry’s Harbour Place, generated $600,000 in bad debt on a section 108 loan. Harry’s Harbour Place is a lovely waterfront eatery, but this sweetheart deal doesn’t exactly have a mouth-watering flavor for taxpayers.

Market Arcade Restaurant Development Inc.

Entertainment and retail businesses are very risky, and that’s why the industrial development agencies have traditionally banned investment in these types of businesses. Of course, the BERC was not subject to this sort of discipline. Market Arcade Restaurant Development, Inc., generated $1.7 million in bad debt. The company belonging to Tony Masiello’s friend, Jim Cosentino, developed the Radisson Hotel downtown. But then, this company ran into difficulty. Tony did his part by not foreclosing on his friend, at the city’s expense!

Theatre Place Associates

Theatre Place is the Main Street building that houses the venerated Tralfamadore Café, which, until recently, was operated by noted jazz musician, Bobby Militello. Last year, Bill Huntress’s Acquest Development bought out the building from Theatre Place. Theatre Place Associates original principals included Masiello’s chief of police and boyhood chum, Rocco Diina. The city wound up eating two million dollars of Theatre Place’s bad debt. This wasn’t section 108, but it was typical of Masiello’s “economic development” philosophy.

“Charge Offs”

One practice at the BERC was simply to “charge off” bad debts without ever making a serious effort to collect the debt. The mayor employed this trick with a $10,000 gift to the Burton sisters whose film, “Manna From Heaven” was supported by local elites. One source involved with the film told Alt that this interest was in reaction to Vincent Gallo’s controversial film, “Buffalo 66,” which depicts Buffalo and its residents in a decidedly harsh light.

T.G.I Friday’s

Why a corporate chain, such as T.G.I Friday’s, would need half a million dollars in government funds to locate in downtown Buffalo is anyone’s guess. Maybe they noticed the vacant storefronts that used to house Burger King and McDonald’s. At any rate, they were in arrears for that amount of money. We couldn’t get ahold of anyone at corporate headquarters who could shed some light about the status of this debt, so we can’t say if it was or will ever be repaid. Why would the company bother paying it back? It’s not exactly like they’re under any pressure from anyone.

Crying Over Spilt Beer? Determined to provide tourists with a comfy brewpub in the center of the theatre district, Masiello & Co. recruited Empire Brewing to move into the vacated space. Although the structure of the loan was not as loose this time, when it came time to collect, M&T Bank was first in line. At last count, the city was still nursing a hangover of a half million dollars in bad debt.

Ellicott Mall

Millions of dollars were spent on rehabbing public housing complexes in Buffalo. The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, long a political patronage haven, was deeply involved. Almost three million dollars of Section 108 debt was run up with two separate private partnerships. These partnerships present an opaque face to taxpayers. This seems to be just another story of an unaccountable public authority soaking up money. The best that can be said is that the project to rehab these structures was the closest thing to a legitimate use of HUD funds as one could expect in Buffalo.

Office of Strategic Planning

The Office of Strategic Planning must now address much of this mess. Timothy Wanamaker, an outsider, was brought in to try to change the direction and philosophy of economic development in Buffalo. Wanamaker was out of town and unavailable for comment on this story at press time. We look forward to addressing these issues with him in the future.

Oh, but of course, just a day prior to the event, he doused the flames of outrage by saying he was donating all of that money to charity. What charity? Probably for AIDS research or something, he said in an interview with The Buffalo News on Sept. 29 (by the way, when accessing this week-old article I was told that I would have to PAY $1.95 for the rest of it, so I could not get a complete quote. Since when does The News start charging for week-old archived articles?! Even The New York Times isn’t that bad.). He also said he actually usually charges $300,000, making it look like we were getting off cheap.

Well la di da, Donald.

In my opinion, the so-called “financial wizard” and “real estate guru” didn’t deserve a dime for his speech. It only lasted about 35 minutes, began 15 minutes late, and it was full of clichés and poorly told stories of Trump’s life. My first-grade teacher could have gotten up on the stage to give a better speech about becoming a success (By the way, thank you, Miss Diane). Themes such as, “Work hard,” “have passion; love what you do,” and “never lose momentum” drew a yawn from this onlooker. Hell, I’ve been doing that for years. It lives and breathes inside of you. It’s common sense. It’s life.

It was disappointing to hear that Trump had been picked as the 2004 Student Choice speaker. Is this the person whom kids are really looking up to? For someone being labeled as so sharp and intelligent, Trump’s manner was somewhat pompous and Buffalo Bills game-day vulgar (no offense, fans, you should be proud. Trump couldn’t last in the party zone for a day, although he reminisced about playing catch with Dan Marino and John Elway here many years before). Trump came off as arrogant, greedy, and addicted to cold, hard cash. Sure, having money is nice, no one is denying that, but Trump couldn’t have possibly done more to represent everything that other countries see the United States as being: a complete corporate consumer bastard. Families and businesspeople from all over Western New York came out to see what they probably thought of as an excellent model for their children, and possibly themselves, to aspire to. Someone slick, worldly, talented, and, above all, successful. Ridiculously successful. So successful that he wooed UB into forking over 200k, when he was essentially speaking for free. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t want my kid to roll into the business world with ethics such as “get even,” “if they screw you, screw them right back (I’ll leave the divorcees out of that one),” and “don’t forget a prenup.” The world is never going to get better if mentors are passing on those lessons.

The poor saps probably came out to hear The Donald’s tickling tales of being a star on his hit show, “The Apprentice.” Well, they received none of that until the end, during the Q&A. Trump seemed somewhat exasperated to answer questions about his show, but he did his best to tackle the mystery of Omarosah’s character. I believe that I left at that point.

I actually squirmed in my seat, and a good one at that, for most of the time, surprising myself to not feel thoroughly excited to see the stagnant blonde slab of hair and signature pink tie five feet away from me. Trump’s speech acted as a catalyst to my cold meds, causing me to space out every so often. I believe that I started drawing farm animals in the margin of my notebook and that I tied to figure out exactly how The Buffalo News’ photographer’s camera worked, and why he had to take about 1,000 pictures when I knew that Trump would look the same in all of them. Finally, at around 8:50 p.m., I packed up my gear and sprinted up the Alumni bleachers, hurrying to get to my car because there was another, far more interesting, show on in town that night. Oh yeah, anyone remember the presidential debates? I think that Trump’s comments could have made President George Bush’s responses sound like Albert Einstein.

I had already written about 400 words of the typical serene anti-Bush rhetoric that’s become commonplace. But it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t me. So now I’ve scratched that for this.

Here’s the deal, kids. Bush sucks. He’s a lying prick. He’s a cowboy, go-it-alone, counter-dependent, self-righteous bastard, and if you’ve been paying even a bit of attention, you should already know that. Never before have I seen an administration lie to the American people so blatantly or so often about such important issues.

We now know that Iraq was not at all linked to the events of 9/11. Just today, the BBC reported that Chief Weapons Inspector Charles Duelfer found no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. And, we also know that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not allies; in fact, they were rivals. As We the People realized that the exact reasons we went to war in Iraq were completely fabricated, the Bush cacophony of lies spat out a few other desperate excuses: Saddam Hussein was an evil man who deserved to be ousted, Iraq is the battlefront of the War on Terror, Saddam had the means to create WMDs, and Al Qaeda operative Zarqawi was living in Baghdad, with the last of these being the supposed proof of the link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

I’ll attack these lies in order, since apparently nobody else in the media or politics has stood firm to them.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a corrupt motherfucker. He was, by all accounts, a sadistic murder. He was also in power for 25 years. The other four U.S. presidents who were in office during those years never felt so overzealous as to think it was that the God-given responsibility of the United States to pick and choose the leaders of other nations. (copy editor’s note: ???????? what about Reagan and Panama and Noriega???????) Yes, while Saddam hurt his own people terribly, if George W. Bush had said that he wanted to put American troops in harm’s way to fight for the freedom of the Iraqi people, he would have been laughed out of the Capitol during his State of the Union address. Don’t any of you understand? Okay, what if the EU attacked us to save us from the Bush regime? My bet is that quite a few members of the NRA would start some shit, guerilla warfare style. People who were baking cookies for the PTA meeting the day before would be “Freedom Fighters” the day after. Imagine how you’d feel if one of your loved ones was being treated inhumanely by their European captors. Or imagine how you soccer moms would feel if you lost one of your little goalies.

The more ignorant of you may think, “Yeah, well, that’ll never happen because our Army is so big and so well trained.” Shut up, you dumb fucks. Might doesn’t make right. If you could stop waving your flag for ten seconds, you’d realize that we would stand up and fight for independence from a brutal invasion, just like any other human being.

That’s why the claim that Iraq is the battlefront for the War on Terror is such a load of steaming crap. Iraq is the battlefront of the still-unjustified War on Iraq. Yes, there are people fighting a guerilla war in Iraq, and there are Al Qaeda operatives entering that country through its now undefended borders. But before we went there, many of these terrorists wouldn’t have crawled out of the woodwork. We decided on the battleground. We made, literally made, our own enemies. What country do you think the majority of the next generation of terrorists will come from? Yes, Saddam had the means and the capability of making WMDs. That’s not very shocking. After all, each of you, my readers, has the means and the capability in your home to make plastic, napalm, or other explosives (remember Oklahoma City?), but we choose not to. Just as, according to weapons inspectors, Saddam chose not to make weapons of mass destruction. By all accounts, he was apparently following the U.N. resolutions that the Bush administration claimed so ardently that he hadn’t. You remember those pre-war days, right? You know, the time when France was holding us back from our drunken fistfight of a war, and we scoffed at them and their fromage? We were boycotting French fries and mustard companies, for Christ’s sake! Oops, aren’t we a bit humbled now. Looks like France had foresight. Looks like maybe France was a better friend then we gave them credit for.

And then there’s that mother fucking Zarqawi. That little cretin and his pals wiggled their way into Baghdad, and the Bush administration is now using this as clear evidence that Iraq was in league with Al Qaeda. After all, there’s a beheading bastard of a terrorist in their midst! Get a clue, people. America had terrorists in our country before 9/11, and it’s likely we still have them lurking now. Most of the 9/11 terrorists carried a Florida driver’s license or ID card. Should we bomb Florida for enabling the enemy? Does the fact that they took up residence there mean that Jeb Bush is in leagues with the Al Qaeda? Of course not. (But I’m all for sending Jeb to Guantanamo, you know, just in case.) The really sad part of this whole thing is that the vast majority of Americans suck these lies down like they are gospel. Why? Why do we believe it? Why do we take it? Why? Because we are in goddamn denial. We don’t want to believe that we stormed into Baghdad and dropped bombs on innocent people — people who were already suffering, due to years of sanctions and misrule — for no good reason. We don’t want to believe that the most patriotic young men and women in the land are being killed and maimed because of bureaucratic blunders or intelligence mistakes. We don’t want to believe that a team of evil, self-righteous bastards in Washington looked upon the murder of 2,800 people on September 11, 2001, as a goddamn opportunity to take care of a little neoconservative business.

And, while we’re talking about body counts, here are some interesting facts for you. In the War in Afghanistan, do you know how many U.S. soldiers lost their lives since the beginning of the war? One hundred and thirty-seven. In Iraq? One thousand and sixty-four. Again, that’s 1,064 U.S. soldiers killed. Not missing, not injured, killed. You want to talk about injured? That’s 7,531, many of them permanently disabled.

And that’s just the US military casualties. Officially, the U.S. government isn’t keeping a body count of “enemy” casualties. That’s for good reason; according to iraqbodycount.net, the total number of Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives since the operation began is approximately 14,118. Add in our casualties, and you have 15,182.

More than 15,000 people are dead without any justification. When contrasted with 2,800, which monster is worse? The value of human life cannot be compared. The death of an Iraqi is just as great as the loss of a New York office worker.

There’s your shock and awe, people.

I saw the headline “Self-snuffing butts make debut” and thought it read, “Self-sniffing butts make debut.” Since dogs are among the strongest proponents of butt-sniffing, I assumed the headline heralded a new dog breed—maybe a dog that consisted of only an ass and a nose, or a dog that could shit out of its nose. The story was actually about an idiot-proof cigarette that goes out if it doesn’t get enough suckage. In any case, The Self-snuffing Butts would make a great band name (as would Women of Mass Destruction, if any unnamed aggressive female bands are reading).

Things that can be fixed: elections, toasters, cats.

Holy things that rhyme: Holy moly! Holy macaroni! Holy guacamole! Holy goddamn almighty! Holy frikkin’ canoli! Holy mother of monkey! Holy Apostles College and Seminary! Holy trinity! Holy taxidermy! Holy matrimony!

Perhaps my total lack of musical ability can be explained by the fact that all I remember about my elementary school music teacher is her fondness for the phrase “zip the lips.”

Words with two o’s in a row tend to be kind of fun: nookie, cookie, forsooth, kerblooey, whoops, stinkfoot, moonie, lagoon, peek-a-boo, oodles, kangaroo, poontang, goo, swoon, vamoose, goober, toot, croon, wookie, stinkarooney, booboo, pooch, smooch, taboo, groovy, hootchie-kootchie, cahoots, behoove, bazooka, boondocks, vroom, doomsday, boob, much-ballyhooed, kook, woof, doodoo, poopoo, doofus, oozing, buffoon, tootsie-wootsie, fumblerooski, frankenhooker, moo. See what I mean?

“With squirrel” means pregnant. Someone who looks like they were “hit in the face with a wet squirrel” is ugly. A patient who is “riding the squirrel train” has woken up in a dazed, desperate, tube-yanking, hospital-room-fleeing state of mind. Now you can’t say you didn’t learn anything about squirrels today.

How many people can put both “death squad” and “cheerleading squad” on their resume?

The world is divided into loaners and loanees, electors and electees, flirters and flirtees, ticklers and ticklees, scolders and scoldees, stabbers and stabees, killers and killees, biters and bitees, floggers and flogees, starers and starees, muggers and muggees, shushers and shushees, shavers and shavees, lickers and lickees, bombers and bombees, pissers and pissees, blackmailers and blackmailees, and motherfuckers and motherfuckees.

“I won the battle but lost the war” is a timeless concept but a horrible cliché. I’m trying to popularize a new version: “I won the banana but lost the monkey.”

Here’s another expression I’m trying to spread like a VD: “That was about as pleasant as a lap dance from a mime dipped in shit.”

We probably all know a couple or two whose matrimony has had more acrimony than some prison riots. When trying to adequately describe these living hells, we can find many useful expressions in the plays of Shakespeare. When speaking to your beloved spouse (and hoping to avoid the popular obscenities), you might shout out, “O curse of marriage!” In the middle of a drinking binge with a good friend who meant well but married badly, you could confide, with a compassionate nod, “Wedded be thou to the hag of hell.” (When offering comfort to wives, this expression can easily be changed to “jerk of hell,” “gentleman of hell,” or “dude of hell”). And if the man or woman of your nightmares proposes marriage, just pause, wink, and say, “I had rather be married to a death’s head with a bone in his mouth.”

In New York City, I once saw a punkish-looking bum perched in a garbage can. Given his circumstances, he had a great sales pitch: “Spare some change for white trash.”

The words of the week:

10) Barbecutionist 9) Plotz 8) Backsplash 7) Splashback 5) Diddlywhacker 4) Gonococcus 3) Swanky 3) Besmirched 2) Crap-happy 1) Pope-a-palooza

I’ve gone postal, and I’ve gone mental, and I’ve gone mad, and I’ve gone nuts, and I’ve gone nuclear, and I’ve gone crazy, and I’ve gone wacky, and I’ve gone bananas, and I’ve gone bonkers, and I’ve gone bugfuck, and I’ve gone batshit, and I’ve gone apeshit. However, I have never gone ape-poopy.

Wordluster Mark Peters wants to hear your thoughts, jokes, and questions about language, including favorite words, memorable goofs, trenchant observations, and other word-ish material. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and read his Wordlust of the Day blog at http://wordlust.blogspot.com

Nature stands mute, and most recognize that the forces of nature never have to apologize for death and destruction. Man stands before the carnage of his own creation and offers excuses and points the finger of blame squarely on the twisted wreckage of his violent actions, be they human or the inanimate objects of his rage.

When the war to end all wars ended, preparation for the next war began in earnest as man sought new and greater means of destruction. Our new age produced both the yawning mouths of ovens capable of consuming millions of fragile bodies and the unleashing of the secrets harbored by the atom. As the mushroom cloud ascended to the heavens, our gods nodded with approval. We were now on equal footing with nature, able to maim, kill, and destroy all that stood in our path. The secret was loosened and fled the opened lid of “Pandora’s Box.” Suddenly the whole world knew our secret formula for destruction, and nation after nation rushed to develop their very own version of how to compete with “Mother Nature.”

The promise of peace through the power of the atom proved as elusive for modern man as it did for the Greeks who developed the “Art of War,” and engaged in heroic legends of death by feat of arms as man’s destiny. I often wonder if a man feels more heroic being blown to smithereens or slowly bleeding to death from a sword thrust through his bowels or a spear protruding from his chest or a bullet ripping through the grey matter that was once a brain.

Our American leaders now look on everything as a war. We have the War on Drugs, the War on Fat, the War on Terrorism, the Iraq War, and Preventive War. One wishes that some bright bulb in the world or perhaps our own White House or Congress would declare a War on War.

The present administration unleashes the politics of fear on a populace that stands and waves the banner as the jingoistic mantras blare from the speakers. Watch as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney pump the crowds with their views of Armageddon and the evil of terrorists and then see the steel grey caskets draped in the flag of our country roll from the gaping bellies of military transports. As George W. and his neo-con legions search the elusive vapors for truth and justification for their invasion of Iraq, their chameleon explanations change quicker than most people change underwear. The preferred threat of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) has been discarded in favor of imposing democracy on this unwilling country, Iraq. I suppose, if our military kills enough of the Iraqi people, the survivors will embrace democracy, rather than dying and meeting up with promised harems of virgins in heaven. It is hoped that the Iraqi people accept democracy soon, as heaven has been rumored to be running out of virgins for all of the willing martyrs. Is there a place in heaven stocked with “boy toys” for the increasing number of women willing to blow themselves apart?

In a few short weeks, the American people will be given an opportunity to choose whether to stay the course of war with Bush, or seek a new direction from challenger John Kerry. Bush supporters are presented with an image of a man who walks a straight and narrow trail, never deviating from his chosen path. Kerry is presented as the “flip flopper,” a man who continually changes his mind. Bush, we are told, never changes his mind, even when presented with the evidence that his direction is flawed, and he is in danger of walking off a cliff.

Our last presidential debates between Bush and Gore were delivered on a sixth- or seventh-grade academic level. The promise of the debates this year between Bush and Kerry, in all probability, will remain at this level or lower. Will we give the thoughtful man or thoughtless man our attention and pause with due reflection regarding the course and direction we want our country to follow. The Road Map for Peace in the Middle East is shredded and has been declared useless by Ariel Sharon and the State of Israel. The promise of Perpetual War looks like a winner for the foreseeable future. The September 18 cover of The Economist shouts, “NO WAY TO RUN A DEMOCRACY.” The ensuing articles detail how many of our American democratic institutions have failed or are in danger of failing.

“As with so many of the other abuses in American politics, it need not be that way. Just as some states have bought good voting machines, others have redrawn their electoral boundaries in a sensible way. Iowa, for instance, allows an independent commission to set them. Redistricting can be fixed – and it should be. America’s devotion to the principle of democracy is admirable – but the principle could be far better honoured in the practice.”

None of us know when our horizon will reveal the distant shore that we seek or when we will finally step ashore to a land that balances reason with the nuances of emotion. Until that time arrives, we will have to continually adjust our compass settings lest we sail off the edge of the world.

Now, the mayor has a new plan to shut down a few more firehouses. Happily, this plan includes a nice piece of action for Benderson Development. They will get to swap an undesirable lot that McDonald’s vacated on Hertel Avenue for a prime parking lot downtown. When you think about it, doesn’t Benderson Development deserve to be rewarded for moving their corporate headquarters out of Western New York for the sunnier climes of Florida? Of course, they do.

Meanwhile, morale in the Buffalo Fire Department continues to suffer. Masiello has stuck by one of his patronage puppies, Michael D’Orazio, who is serving as an interim, make-believe fire commissioner, after the real fire commissioner, Calvin Worthy, stepped down to protest the Masiello administration and the control board’s attacks on the firefighters.

Casino Buffalo: Book Your New Year’s Reservations Now!

Did we get your attention? Good! Okay, so maybe Casino Buffalo won’t be opening until next New Year’s, but our sources tell us that negotiations are heating up for both the Buffalo Convention Center and the Aud. The Aud deal reportedly being considered would see the proposed Bass Pro Shop splitting the cavernous space with a Seneca casino. Alt broke the story that Bass Pro has links to the gaming industry in Las Vegas, last year. Although a Seneca casino in downtown targeting local gamblers continues to be a highly unpopular idea particularly with Citizens Against Gaming in Erie County and is even opposed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, our mayor has demonstrated that he stands as a true profile in courage by continuing to place Casino Buffalo at the top of his list of priorities.

Although the Bass Pro/Aud casino has some strong support (even mayoral candidate Byron Brown has spoken out in favor of Bass Pro) and stands a good chance of receiving millions in taxpayer largess, would it really do as much as a convention center casino to destroy business in downtown Buffalo. After all, putting the convention center out of business would drain the local economy of millions of dollars.

Since this mayor has seen fit to do everything he possibly can to hurt the City of Buffalo, it probably makes more sense to stick the casino right in the heart of downtown like a dagger. One would hope that the mayor, the governor and the Seneca Tribal Council can come up with a perfect storm solution that will maximize the damage to taxpayers that a heavily subsidized Casino Buffalo will undoubtedly bring.

Stuck in Buffalo with the Sunbelt blues again In a recent editorial in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, titled “Getting to Average,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., discussed the continuing problem of economic inequality facing black Americans. Gates, who is a professor at Harvard and a highly regarded intellectual found that the consensus in black academic circles is that, rather than paying lip service to the illusive goal of racial equality in this country, most have set their sights lower. “The fantasy isn’t that inequality vanishes; it’s that inequality in black America catches up with inequality in white America.” In this era of war, high oil prices, and uncertainty in capital markets the trend has been toward downward mobility as lower middle class jobs disappear, so this point is well taken. The example Gates uses to illustrate these lowered expectations, however, might give pause to power brokers in our own backyard.

“Recently, I asked a few experts on poverty in black America about how we might get to average. I heard a lot of deep breaths. When they picture a black America, they see Buffalo – a boarded up central city and a few lakefront mansions. The glory days for the black working class were from 1940 to 1970, when manufacturing boomed and factory jobs were plentiful. But when the manufacturing sector became eclipsed by the service economy, black workers ended up – well, stuck in Buffalo.” “A boarded up central city… stuck in Buffalo.” Sound familiar? Encouraging Tony Masiello to be our poster boy should help change this image, right? Sure it will.

“It’s my favorite restaurant; I love the salads.” “Comfortable and relaxing setting.” “Since the new owners have been here, it’s been wonderful.”

Menu:

Appetizers: * Raw Bar: Oysters, Clams, and Shrimp Raspberry Brie in Puff Pastry Dill/Shrimp Puff Pastry Lobster Cake Entrees: Grilled Breast of Duckling Roast Bell and Evans Chicken Breast Seafood Trilogy # Crispy Mango-Ginger Halibut Grilled Swordfish Steak Libations: Johnny Walker Black and Soda

* - Best of Category # - Best of Show

Allawi was indeed the European president of the Association of Iraqi Students Abroad. This job allowed him to travel widely and meet his fellow Arab nationalists. This is when he allegedly fingered student-traitors, some of whom were “denounced and punished” and some of whom were executed. The Tikrit clan of Saddam Hussein’s rise to power was a bad omen for nationalists, such as Ayad. He had a falling out with the strong man and fled the country. While in Britain in 1975, he resigned from the Baathist party. There is much evidence to suggest that anyone who failed to flee the country at that time became buried beneath it.

Cloak and Dagger Exile

Allawi sent himself into exile, first to Lebanon and then finally in London. He received his master’s degree in medicine in 1976, and his doctorate three years later. While in London, the first suspicious incident occurred. Three men broke into his London apartment and struck him several times with an axe. The attackers left Allawi, whose leg was nearly severed, for dead. The attackers were never arrested, but there is speculation that Saddam ordered the hit. Dr. Sadoun al-Duleimi reveals that “…Allawi was an important figure in the Baathist party. He knew a lot of things and passed them onto MI-6. That’s why agents from the Mukhabarat, the secret police, were ordered to kill him.” Whether or not this is true, Ayad Allawi seemed to get the message, and he dropped out of sight. He was back in the game in 1980, when the Saudi secret service helped him set up and run the oddly named Radio Free Iraq. This enterprise failed, but it maintained Ayad’s name on the active roster. It also helped get Allawi some business ties into the only game in town, the oil business, and it helped him put together his first fortune.

The Iraqi National Accord

In 1991, Saddam was chased from Kuwait and his fate appeared sealed. With the help of both British and American intelligence, Allawi organized the Iraq National Accord. This group’s main function was to attract former Iraqi military officers and other officials, with the aim being to oust Saddam in a coup d’etat. But the stubborn beast of Baghdad held onto power. The next year, with the Saudis putting on the pressure, the INA was requested to cooperate with the brand new Iraq National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi. Allawi and Chalabi were well known to each other, having attended primary school together. They were also cousins by marriage. Their work together is little more than a collection of embarrassments. They were trying to overthrow the Hussein regime with a series of car bombings and bungled coup attempts and armed revolts. Their cooperation did not last long.

The 1996 Debacle

Allawi was instrumental in helping the CIA in its worst operation since the Bay of Pigs disaster. After Chalabi failed to come up with a promised “people’s uprising” in Kurdistan, the CIA was ready to try again. The operation was in place in January 1996, after President Bill Clinton gave his approval. Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, related that Allawi had achieved the support of local Arab governments. But overthrowing a madman is expensive. The CIA paid six million dollars, as did the Saudis and the Kuwaitis. The operation was scheduled for the end of June. But Allawi was eager to put his own mark on this possible success. A month before the attempt, Allawi leaked the story to the Washington Post. At about the same time, Saddam’s secret police in Baghdad had picked up one of Allawi’s operatives. Inside the beltway, little attention was paid to the Post story. But Saddam Hussein’s men were much impressed. They quickly convinced Allawi’s man to talk, and, on June 20, they began to roll up the opposition. Within days, about 30 disloyal generals had been executed, while 120 others had been arrested and tortured. It is estimated that 900 people were murdered in the purge that followed. Nothing was ever mentioned about the millions of wasted dollars. But no Americans were publicly involved, and the matter was swept under the black ops rug. But the future Iraqi prime minister was not yet finished with helping the coalition oust Saddam. He was the individual who tipped MI-6 to the fact that the weapons of mass destruction held the Hussein government could “become operational in 45 minutes.” In July 2003, Allawi was appointed head of the security committee of the fledging Iraq Governing Council. And this May 27, he was kicked upstairs to the office of interim prime minister. Given the chaos and disaster that he has inherited, perhaps this is the puppet strong man that the United States needs in power. Baghdad urban legends still surround the new prime minister. He has survived four assassination attempts. His dealings with captured killers have been ruthless in the extreme. It is rumored that, just a few months ago, Allawi personally shot six prisoners in a Baghdad jail cell.

The cities I visited for extended stays were Rome, Venice, and Florence, all in Italy, of course. My traveling partner and I also took a side jaunt to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, which is actually quite impressive, and we went to Livorno to put our hands in the Mediterranean Sea. Saw Milan because our train to Paris from Florence had a lay-over for an hour. Ten days in Italy, overall. We were in Paris for five nights and then took the Eurostar Channel Train to London (150 mph through France, 100 mph in the “Chunnel,” and 80 mph in England. Six nights in London.

In fact, I’m writing this article from an Internet Cafe in the Earl’s Court section of London, near my hotel, the Ibis Earl’s Court.

The bottom line is this, Europeans may be concerned about George W. Bush and his war in Iraq, some more so than others, but as a continent, they have their own ways of living and thinking. I experienced no hostility of any kind and got the impression that most Europeans consider Iraq a tragedy, but it’s America’s tragedy. The Italians are lively and amazingly friendly. The French are justifiably proud of the beauty of Paris, and it is astonishingly beautiful. The British aren’t overwhelmingly happy with their Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who the left-wing press calls “Bush’s poodle.”

We spent a lot of time amongst “real” Europeans, although we did see the important sights in each city, but wanted to make sure we traveled away from the tourist traps. We mastered the metro systems in each city that had one.

Rome was surprisingly dirty. There is litter and graffiti, a 1960s and 1970s American experience, everywhere. There are discussions about it on television talk shows. Pedestrians have to watch out for zippy, noisy motor scooters, of which there must be hundreds of thousands. Traffic is chaotic and drivers park their Mo-peds and cars everywhere and anywhere they can. I loved the madness of it all.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was playing at a movie theater around the corner from our hotel, the family-run Hotel Alimandi on Via Tunisi in the Prati district. The view from our window was of the Vatican Wall. Sitting on the sixth floor roof-top breakfast area (and what a great breakfast), you could see the the dome of St. Peter’s. The Pope was in town, but we missed his Wednesday show for the tourists. We went to the Colosseum and the Forum that day. I’d recommend the Alimandi to everyone. Not expensive, very clean, and with a great three-brother staff (Paolo, Enrico, and Luigi) that was always on hand to tend to duties.

Eating in Rome was something wonderful. The people love their cafes and pizzerias. Dinner starts at 8 or 9 in the evening and no waiter bugs you with the check. You can sit outdoors all night eating then thin-crusted, fresh as anything pizza and drink your esperesso and never be bothered. 10 o’clock, 11, nobody cares. For all the pasta and pizza they eat, the Italians are thin and healthy. Dessert was usually half of a fresh pineapple or a quarter of a watermelon. And don’t get me started on the gelato and sorbetto. Heaven!!

Venice is total magic. No other way to describe it. Once you’re there, you walk and walk and walk and enjoy every minute of it. No cars for three days. Although we did see St. Mark’s and the pigeons and all that, we also strolled the Rialto Market, tucked away near a canal, where the fish is so fresh, some of the catch is still jumping in their baskets. We stayed at the Hotel Bernardi on Calle De L’Oca, another family-run place, and highly recommended. The owner has bought a couple of other floors in nearby buildings so some guests get to stay in their own private suites away from the main hotel. We had one of those and it was terrific.

Florence meant the Uffizi (with it’s very important national collection) and the Accademia (with Michelangelo’s statue of David). Actually seeing the David statue is stunning. It is more powerful than any picture can capture. Our hotel was the La Fortezza, on Via Giovanni Milton, in a restored 1850s villa with retro furnishings and another superb breakfast. A great place away from the tourists. Our traditional Tuscan meal took place at Il Latina, where I had, among other delights, ribbolita - a tasty bowl of beans, spinach, broth, and day-old crushed bread. The communal dining experience at this hugely popular spot meant we shared our table with an elderly couple from Venice and two American couples, a homebuilder and his wife from Springfield, Missouri, and a 2nd-generation Asian-American newly-wed duo. It was a sublime eating experience. The food and wine kept coming.

In Paris, everyone who smokes will smoke everywhere they can, and that means anywhere. And most Parisians smoke. And eat in outdoor cafes. Buying a piping hot fresh baguette (a 3-foot loaf of bread) for 80 euros (90 cents) at 7 in the evening is grand fun. Saw the Mona Lisa at the Lourve, and she is also impressive, but the Lourve allows photographs and the tourists are like crazed barbarians, snapping their pix in an endless stream. The collection of Impressionist art at the Musee D’Orsay is astonishing.

We saw Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” in English with French subtitles in a tiny theater near the Sorbonne. The seats were the most comfortable in which I’ve ever sat. The audience was silent beyond belief. Cinema was their religion and the theater was their church. Our hotel was the very affordable Libertel Austerlitz in a great location near the Seine, but if you book, make sure you get a room away from the noisy street. Our room was in the back and quiet, but folks in the front couldn’t open their windows because of the traffic, and the place has no air conditioning. Our traditional bistro meal took place at Cafe Hugo in the Marais neighborhood under the apartment building where Victor Hugo wrote “Les Miserables.”

Once in London, our first evening in London meant traditional pub grub: roast lamb, biscuits and gravy, potatoes, peas, and warm brown beer.

The truth of the matter may be patently obvious to smarter Americans, which is most of you. Europeans like the U.S.A. and Americans, but they have their own views and lifestyles. Too much concentration on politics will only hurt people, not help them. The American government needs to open its eyes and ears to the views and cultural wants and needs of Europe.

And, come on, once you’ve seen Paris and its gardens, fountains, broad boulevards, and traffic circles, you know that no American city has every been designed as well or better

Charter school proponents appear to be prepared to use any means necessary to force through the creation of as many new charter schools in the City of Buffalo as possible. Nothing could be more important to this Republican-inspired movement than to obtain a willing ally in the office of Buffalo’s superintendent of schools.

After Buffalo Schools Superintendent Marion Canedo announced that she would step down, the need for a replacement for the post was obvious. Behind the scenes, however, political strategies were being planned. Alt has investigated Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm that is responsible for recommending her replacement and found that the firm’s close ties with the charter school movement raise questions about whether it will be able to be objective in its selection process.

Overcoming Last School Year’s Political Defeat The increasingly partisan nature of American politics was, of course, well reflected locally in this spring’s school board election. The stakes were high as charter school proponents sought a takeover of the school board. The push to create as many new charter schools as possible has the additional benefit (for charter advocates) of taking funds available to traditional public schools. Eventually, a tipping point may be reached in which public education in Buffalo will become private, for-profit education with public funding.

The jury on charter schools, at least in the City of Buffalo, is still out. The radical charter school supporters, represented by Chris Jacobs, did not carry a majority. While several of the new school board members were not opposed to charter schools, they were elected on promises of moderation and a commitment to improve public education, first and foremost.

Identifying and isolating weak points in the opposition is something that charter school radicals have proven adept at, though. New school board member Janique Curry found herself so overwhelmed by lobbyists that she chose to abstain from voting on a moratorium on new charter schools in the district. In the meantime, the school board voted in favor of several new charters in its Sept. 22 meeting. The additional funding requirements of these new charters will put greater financial pressure on Buffalo’s public school system.

Charter School Lessons

One of the great ironies of the charter school battle currently being waged against public education is that Buffalo’s school system experienced real reform under former Superintendent Eugene Reville. Buffalo’s creation of the magnet school system was admired throughout the country. Funding problems short-circuited these successes, however.

In the charter school world, though, the problem isn’t lack of funding; it’s the fact that private individuals and corporations don’t control the public monies that go into public education. The system needs to be privatized, as it was in California. The following story from the Sept.17 edition of The New York Times gives us one lesson about what can result from this sort of “funding reform.”

“The disintegration of the California Charter Academy, the largest chain of publicly financed but privately run charter schools to slide into insolvency, offers a sobering picture of what can follow. Thousands of parents were forced into a last-minute search for alternate schools, and some are still looking; many teachers remain jobless; and students' academic records are at risk in abandoned school sites across California. Investigators are sifting through records, seeking causes of the disaster, which has raised new questions about how charter schools are regulated.

“ ‘Until the Charter Academy went into its tailspin, few people predicted that these crashes could be so bloody, but this has been a catastrophe for many people,’ said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘The critics of market-oriented reforms warned of risks with the philosophy of let-the-buyer-beware, but in this case, buyers were just totally hung out to dry.’ ” “Caveat Emptor” (a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer be ware”) is a concept with which taxpayers in Buffalo might want to familiarize themselves as charter schools continue to sprout up like mushrooms, and the district seeks a new superintendent.

School Superintendent History 101: Dirty Politics Pays

After the unsatisfying result at the polls, the need to find a suitable replacement for the pliable, yet well-liked Canedo became increasingly important. It became so important, in fact, that M&T Bank CEO (and charter school advocate) Bob Wilmers took the unusual and somewhat suspicious step of offering to pay up to $100,000 of the new superintendent’s yearly salary. Predictable arguments in favor of Wilmers’ largess were trotted out in the local media. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A bigger salary will attract a better candidate. Etc.

One need only look back on the bitter fight to remove former Buffalo School Superintendent James Harris to realize how politically significant the position of superintendent in Buffalo really is. Harris’ opponents dropped an artificial funding crisis was on his Harris. The Buffalo News took the unprecedented step of running leaked excerpts of his personnel file on the front page, top of the fold Sunday edition. The fact that several people in the Board of Education disliked Harris was all the evidence that was necessary to turn public opinion against him. The movement to remove him, we were all assured, was not racist. Furthermore, people who suspected a racial element in this character assassination must be “playing the race card themselves.”

Behind the scenes, what was at stake in the Harris crisis was control over the Joint School Construction Authority’s bonding. Harris, prior to his dismissal, was reportedly leaning toward Morgan Stanley. His opponents favored Salomon Smith Barney. Guess who wound up with the bonding contract? Maybe the most important color in this conflict was green, after all.

The “Struggles” for Superintendent: Making Buffalo School “Market” safe for the GOP?

So now that the search for a new CEO-type superintendent is underway, who has been charged with conducting the search? That task has been entrusted to Heidrick and Struggles, an executive search firm with close ties to the charter school movement. The nominating and board governance committee chairman for Heidrick and Struggles, Richard Beattie is also chairman of the board and founder of New Visions For Public Schools, a not-for-profit group that promotes charter schools.

The following is from www.newvisions.org, the website for Beattie’s group: “The (New York State) Board of Education requested that New Visions formally address the need to assist such schools (new charters) in recognition of New Visions' experience and expertise in this field. The Charter School Assistance Center will provide resources that will combine New Visions' decade of experience with additional research, making critical information and technical assistance services available to new school leaders, and others embarking on the road to creating, converting, and managing charter schools.”

Beattie’s devotion to the charter school movement raises questions about whether his firm’s search team will be independent and seek out the best candidate, regardless of his or her position on charter schools.

Heidrick & Struggles board member Robert E. Knowling, Jr., is also chairman of the New York City Leadership Academy, a not-for-profit program that helps train new public school principals and is funded by the Broad Foundation, another organization advocating charter schools.

Heidrick & Struggles’ energy and industry advisor Les Csorba is one of the founders of the right-wing attack group, Accuracy in Academia, served in the George H. W. Bush administration and was involved in Southern Baptist Convention coup that created a schism in that religion along political lines. The Southern Baptists basically excommunicated ex-President Jimmy Carter for being a Democrat.

Are this search firm’s ties to Republican organizations and causes something that should concern the parents of Buffalo school?

Philadelphia Story: The Search Team Responds

Nat Sutton and Ken Kring are members of the Heidrick & Struggles search team. Sutton returned our call and stated that he could make no comment on the search itself, since it is just getting underway. He dismissed the notion that Beattie’s involvement in the charter school movement would have any bearing on the outcome of his firm’s search. “We’re looking for the best qualified person for the job, and that’s it,” he said.

He cited his firm’s experience and professionalism as an executive search firm as being the only factors involved. “We’ve been contracted to search for the best candidate, but it will be up to the school board to decide whether to hire that person or not,” Sutton said.

Sutton said that his firm has conducted other school district personnel searches, particularly in Philadelphia. By changing the title of superintendent to “CEO,” the school reform commission in Philadelphia, led by political appointee James Nevels, practically guaranteed that Philadelphia would get a business-friendly, charter school proponent. The executive eventually selected for that job, Paul Vallas, has, to almost no one’s surprise, been a proponent of charter schools. In short, the example of Heidrick & Struggles’ search in Philadelphia does little to prove its independence from the charter school movement.

Conclusion: The Need to Articulate a Positive Alternative

Clearly, it is not enough for charter school critics to stand on the sidelines if they hope to foil the right-wing juggernaut that the charter school movement has become at its leadership level.

Aside from attempting to put out the fires that have already been created by privatizers, such as Chris Jacobs and Control Board Czar Bob Wilmers, supporters of public education must do more to get a positive message out about how poor school performance can be turned around in Buffalo, without the “creative destruction” preached by the right-wing radicals.

In the upcoming search for superintendent, moderates on the school board must articulate the need for a superintendent who can carry on the legacy of Eugene Reville, while being wary of those candidates bearing MBAs and sporting red suspenders.

In addition, other board members are associated with the defense industry (Bechtel and Lockheed Martin).

In fact, except maybe for Kevin Spacey’s movie executive character in Swimming With Sharks, I’ve never seen any Hollywood pasha recoil at the idea of riding in an elevator with plain folks. And I’ve been in a lot of elevators with a lot of movie stars. I’ve even seen Uma Thurman cry in one. Not sure why she was crying, though. Speaking of Spacey, he was at this year’s Toronto Film Festival to share his personal journey regarding the making of Beyond The Sea, about singer Bobby Darin. Spacey plays the bobby sox crooner and sings in his own voice. He revealed that he’s even going to take his show on the road and has booked dates in a number of cities to sing the songs Darin made famous; hits like Mack The Knife. As a child, Spacey idolized Darin. Anyway, how close can you get to Sean Penn without actually knowing him? THISCLOSE. That’s how crowded the elevators are at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto during the annual rite of cinematic passage known as the Toronto International Film Festival. This year’s event, the 29th, was as smooth-sailing an event as I’ve attended. Oh, I’m sure there were behind-the-scene mishaps and fits of pique, but from my vantage point, it was a pleasant experience. Only one movie truly disappointed me and there was one other during which I sat wondering why I had chosen it, only to remember that it had fit my schedule perfectly. Another of my choices thoroughly surprised me. This year’s festival had a slate of 328 films, 253 of them features, which are considered movies that last more than 50 minutes. 207 of the entries were premieres (that’s 82 per cent). According to the festival’s press releases, of those 207, one hundred were world premieres, twenty-six were international premieres (which I guess is somehow different from a world premiere), and 81 were North American premieres. 146 of the movies were in languages other than English, with 61 nations contributing to the festival. Very few of the movies had car crashes and bursts of machine gun fire.

As for the aforementioned Mr. Penn, he created a stir at his press conference when he noted that President George W. Bush would soon top Osama bin Laden as a mass murderer. Penn noted that bin Laden killed 3000 people with his assaults in New York and Washington, D.C. and Bush was already responsible for the deaths of 1000 U.S. military personnel. He didn’t factor in Iraqi and other nationalities, which is what made Penn’s comment a tad convoluted. But he said it, thus the buzz at the festival. Penn was in Toronto to publicize his acting in The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, a film that was well-received and will eventually open wide in the United States.

Star sightings are always a factor at the festival. As I was exiting the building that houses the Varsity Cinemas (where the press corps sees most of their movies), I held the door open for the person behind me, who turned out to be actor Danny Glover. And one of my favorite lines was Warren Beatty’s comment about his wife Annette Bening, who was in town with Being Julia, which opened the festival. He noted that he was there to support his wife, to which he added: “I just like looking at her.” Why not? Ms. Bening is beautiful and since I’ve interviewed her in the past one-on-one (for The American President), I can tell you that she’s also delightful, smart, and terrifically funny. Orlando Bloom worked the ropes, signing autographs, and it’s when teen idols like him are around that you realize the connection between girl power and box office. The screams from his adoring fans almost curdle the blood. Bloom was at the festival to promote Haven, a little independent movie from the Cayman Islands about lost youth and the illusion that the Caribbean region is all sun and sand. The film is quite interesting. Screenwriter-director Frank E. Flowers uses an innovative style to tell his story about problems facing these small island nations. Wherever movie stars gather, you know there will be politics and sex, both of which always get a glad hand at Toronto and this year was no exception. Two of the best movies I saw touched on one or the other of these themes. The Motorcycle Diaries is a remarkably clear-eyed feature about a very complex man, Ernesto Che Guevara. It’s directed by Walter Salles and stars Gael Garcia Bernal as the Marxist revolutionary who dreamed of a unified Latin America, from the northern Mexican border to the tip of the Andes.

The film touches on the nine-month adventure a twenty-something Guevara and his best friend Alberto Granada took through South America, a journey that colored Guevara’s thinking and forged his principles. Guevara was one month away from graduating from medical school (his field was leprosy) and Granada was a biochemist. The movie is based on the books The Motorcycle Diaries (by Guevara) and Traveling With Che Guevara (by Granada) and tells its story in straight-forward fashion. There is nothing fancy on screen; just two men, bonded by a tight friendship who wanted to see some of the world, meet new people, and share an experience. What they learned was a revelation to them about poverty and human misery. Simplistic to the nth degree, Salles’ film (written by Jose Rivera) relies on the acting comaraderie between Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna to hold your interest. I learned things about Guevara that I did not know, always a good result of going to the movies. Sex was omnipresent in festival films and P.S. is a commanding feature that stars Laura Linney as a Columbia University admissions official who beds a potential student, played by Topher Grace. Let me write something about Linney. She is a sensationally good actress. She’s gotten fine reviews in her past films (Primal Fear, The Truman Show, Tales Of The City, Searching For Bobby Fischer, Mystic River, You Can Count On Me, etc.), and frankly, along with Joan Allen, ranks as one of the best screen performers in the business. The story line for P.S. is basic, but the movie is so much more. Based on Helen Schulman’s novel of the same name, it’s directed by Dylan Kidd (his second feature; his first was the very good Roger Dodger). Kidd and Schulman co-wrote the movie’s tight screenplay. Linney’s character moves through life going through the motions. There are minor family complications (with Paul Rudd as her brother and Lois Smith as her mother) that don’t overwhelm the main thrust of the story. Her ex-husband (Gabriel Byrne) is a generous intellectual and her best friend (Marcia Gay Harden) is a jealous needy sort. Both have serious sex issues. The movie concentrates on the energy and wonder and confusion and mystery of the relationship between Linney and Grace, a solid young actor who brings the right amount of eagerness and nervousness to the relationship. What’s especially superb about P.S. is the focus on the Linney character’s power as both a woman and as a university official. The film never dawdles over unimportant factors and never squeezes the worst kind of melodrama from the explosive situation. It has a point-of-view about passion that is refreshing. A person doesn’t have to be lonely and sex doesn’t have to be tawdry. P.S. is a good one. As for the Academy Awards, if Linney isn’t nominated for her role, it’s time to shut down the program.

Linney is also in Kinsey, a biographical picture about Alfred Kinsey. Liam Neeson plays the human sexual behavior pioneer. Linney plays Kinsey’s free-spirited wife Clara. There’s huge Oscar talk about this movie as well, which worries Neeson, who may get a best actor nomination. At the film’s press conference, he said that he thinks “the movie’s jinxed already because of the Oscar buzz. Irish are superstitious, you know.” Linney humorously noted that it’s “better than people saying it’s terrible. I’ll take it over people saying, ‘God, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’ It’s very flattering. Very nice. Will it happen? Who knows? It’s early in the season. I think what’s important is that it’s a good movie and that’s just cause for celebration.”

Director Bill Condon, who also wrote the screenplay for Kinsey, said that he became interested in Kinsey following the release of two major biographies of him in the 1990s. Kinsey unleashed a firestorm with is 1948 study Sexual Behavior In The Human Male and his 1954 follow-up about females. Of Kinsey’s importance, Condon remarked that “we all owe a tremendous debt to him. There’s a direct line from the books he published to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and to a lot of the freedoms that we enjoy today. It’s odd how many people, when you mention him [Kinsey], think of Masters and Johnson and think of other people who have come after him. But he’s a forgotten figure. So I’m hoping that this movie can shed new light on him.”

Neeson talked about what made him accept the part in the sexually-charged movie, which includes adult content, myriad stark images of both male and female sexuality, and full frontal nudity from co-star Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Kinsey’s main researcher and occasional lover, Clyde Martin. Said Neeson about Kinsey, “I just got off on the man’s energy. I just love people with that kind of energy. Of course, he was a workaholic and he worked himself to death. That’s the reality. But every second was lived and researched, after Kinsey got inspired to start his campaign. I’m a lazy slob myself, so I admire people like that; who burn the candle at both ends. Seize the day. That inspired me.” I saw a number of movies at the festival and the one that made me wish I had chosen something else was L’Intrus (The Intruder), a French film by director Claire Denis. It had something to do with an elderly gent who lives on the border between France and Switzerland but might have had links to a horse trainer, Russian gangsters, and woodland hoodoo voodoo; not to mention cardiology and a women with a gazillion moles on her face. Half the time the thing made no sense and the other half it fascinated because the movie is breathtaking to look at. True, pure Cinemascope in gorgeous color. And there isn’t much dialogue; Denis, who made Chocolat (a feature with alleged charms I easily resisted) tells her story leanly and meanly, but it just wasn’t a very alluring story.

I was pleasantly surprised by Shadows Of Time, a contemporary romantic drama set in India and directed by German filmmaker Floran Gallenberger. The movie follows a young boy and girl (street children) who work in a rug factory. The fellow buys his way out of the sweat-shop and eventually becomes comfortably well-off selling rugs to Europeans. But he always remembers the young girl and often has spent time searching for her as an adult. His life has changed (he’s in a cold marriage), but his dream of crossing paths with the girl he really adores never dies. The film passes through a number of decades but remains intimate and solidly powerful. There’s emotion and hope and it’s the absolute best reason for going to a film festival. Discovery is a great thing.

The movie that disappointed me was Eros. Thoroughly disappointed me. It’s a compilation film by three important directors, Wong Kar-wai, Steven Soderbergh, and Michelangelo Antonioni. I was excited to see it because of the Antonioni factor. He is one of my favorite directors and you can’t call yourself a film person if you haven’t at least seen his L’Avventura, Red Desert, and Blow-Up, not to mention La Notte and Zabriskie Point. Antonioni was born in 1912 so he’s 92 years old and that he is still making movies is joyful news.

Unfortunately, Eros is a dud. Neither of the three episodes about sexual obsession that make up the feature had any spark. All were unimaginative, flatly directed with uninteresting writing. The Wong Kar-wai piece (in color) was the better of the three as it had a nice look, but the dull tale of a courtesan and her tailor wasn’t stylized enough. Soderbergh’s silly contribution, in black and white, featured Robert Downey, Jr. visiting a shrink, Alan Arkin, who makes paper airplanes while Downey talks about an erotic dream he had about a ravishing woman. Utterly inane. As for Antonioni’s contribution (also in color), well, it had vibrant cinematography. The director returns to his oft-told theme of a young couple who argue more than they make love. The guy is attracted to a mystery woman and he hopes that this attraction will help solve the problems in his relationship. Antonioni has a knack for revealing alienation in perfect images, but in this effort it’s all to no avail. I know, I know, the man’s 92-years old; give him a break, cut him some slack. Believe me, I wish I could, but I can’t.

Love, pain, and the whole darn thing was better shown in An Italian Romance, a romance set in Fascist Italy. Directed by Carlo Mazzacurati, this is a superb adult story about love and passion and missed opportunities. The man is a very handsome banker, married with a child, who finds he cannot stop thinking about a former friend, an attractive beautician. His heart still belongs to her. When their paths cross on a train in 1936, old memories win out. As the movie progresses through time and into the dangers of World War II, the gloriously photographed work grips you. The illicit, often tempestuous love the couple has for each other makes for an engaging drama. There is rich period detail and wonderful performances by Stefano Accorsi and Maya Sansa. Director Mazzacurati knows how to both build tension and deliver exquisite cinematic poetry. This is the kind of epic foreign language film that deserves a huge international audience. I hope it finds it’s way across the Atlantic.

An Italian Romance was the last movie I saw at this year’s festival and it made for a pleasant drive home. While I certainly understand that there are movies that will disappoint (oh that Eros), it’s nice to have good memories of the festival along for the ride.

Dick Cheney has held key posts in nearly every Republican administration since Richard Nixon. The exception occurred during the Reagan years, when Cheney served in the House of Representatives as the representative from Wyoming. Along the way, he cultivated many friends in high places.

A lineman for the county

Lincoln, Nebraska, can claim Dick Cheney as its very own, but only briefly. As a boy, Cheney moved to Casper, Wyoming, where his father worked on the railroad. Young Dick would not be following his father’s railroad tracks. In 1959, a local Republican businessman got the Natrona County High School student a scholarship to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The very same Yale would become the alma mater of John Kerry, Bob Woodward, George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Three of them joined the notorious Skull and Bones society. Cheney was described in Casper as “the all American boy, in the top ten percent of his class….he seemed a natural.”

But Yale would prove too much. The World Book mentions that Cheney “returned home after three semesters.” That, however, is not quite accurate. The truth is that freshman Cheney flunked out. Cheney’s roommates during his first and only semesters recalled that Cheney “…spent all his time partying with guys who loved football but weren’t varsity quality…his idea was, you didn’t need to master the material. He passed one Psych course without studying or attending class…” Eventually, playing fast and loose with academics caught up with him, and he flunked out. When he returned to Casper, he took a job as a lineman with an electric utility. Young Cheney learned from the Yale experience. He enrolled at the University of Wyoming and received a B.A. in political science in 1965. Not one to rest on his laurels, he took a master’s in 1966, also in political science.

Behind every successful man, there may or may not be a great woman. In 1964, Cheney married Lynne Ann Vincent. Lynne, who earned a Ph.D. in English literature, did not hide her light under a Bush. She became a magazine editor, novelist, and college professor.

Rise To Power

In 1968, Cheney won a congressional fellowship, and the couple relocated to Washington, D.C. In 1969, Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, came into the picture, when Cheney joined his staff as his special assistant. In 1971, Cheney served a short stint as White House staff assistant. He then moved on to become assistant director of the Cost of Living Council, a position that he left in 1973. The next year, Cheney made the move to the executive office. He worked as a deputy assistant to President Gerald Ford in 1974 and 1975. He then moved closer to the inner circle, becoming Ford’s chief of staff in late 1975 and stayed in that position until Ford left office in 1977.

On July 10, 1975, Rumsfeld circulated a memo that dealt with the list of possible choices for someone to fill the position of director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Dick Cheney suggested Robert Bork, Lee Iacocca, and Texan George H.W. Bush.

George Bush, formerly the United States ambassador to the United Nations and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, was given the job.

House of Representatives

The fall of Gerald Ford sent Cheney back to Wyoming, but not for long. In 1978, Dick was elected as a Republican to the 98th Congress and was returned for the next five terms. Cheney was no mere member of the House of Representatives. He cultivated a reputation as a hard-line conservative by opposing sanctions against apartheid South Africa. He voted against a resolution demanding the release of Nelson Mandela. On the home front, Cheney opposed the ban on armor-piecing bullets and the Equal Rights Amendment. He voted against expanding the Clean Water Act and Head Start; and he voted against a constitutional amendment banning school busing. He was only one of four members to oppose a ban on guns that avoid detection by metal detectors. At the same time, he began to expand his own base as he served as the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, chairman of the House Republican Conference and finally as House Minority Whip in 1988.

But the conservative and born-again Neo-Con War Hawk Cheney consistently voted against authorizing military pay increases during his tenure in the House. According to the CQ Almanac, Cheney voted against increasing the pay of both senior enlisted members and junior enlisted members in 1981. In 1982, he voted against the “Uniformed Services Pay Act.” Cheney consistently voted against Veterans Administration Funding for seven of his ten years in the House.

In what must be one of the great ironies inside the beltway, the ever- ambitious Dick resigned his seat in 1989 to become Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush.

He immediately began to gut defense spending. As secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney announced a cutback of nearly 45 percent in the administration’s B-2 stealth bomber program, from 132 aircraft to 75. In further testimony to the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee in June 1989, Cheney said, “This is just a list of some of the programs that I’ve recommended termination: the V-22 Osprey, the F-14D, the Army Helicopter Improvement program, Phoenix Missile, the F-15E, the Apache helicopter, and the M-1 tank.”

The defense industries must have breathed a huge sight of relief when Cheney returned to the private sector and Halliburton.

But between his stints at the Department of Defense and at Halliburton, Dick Cheney did not remain idle. From January 1993 to October 1995, Cheney was a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

But while at the helm at Halliburton, Dick Cheney found the time to become a signatory to the now Infamous Project For A New American Century’s Statement of Principles, along with colleagues Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, and his current vice presidential chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. This PNAC document stresses major increases in defense spending. Dick Cheney must have known something that we don’t.

The year 2000 saw Dick Cheney looking for work, and he nominated himself to be vice president and chief minder to the young pretender from Texas. And always looking for new friends, that same year, Cheney was an advisory board member for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

What’s next for the man from Casper? A Kerry-Edwards victory in November would hardly cause Cheney any loss of sleep. This ultimate insider has too many low friends in high places.

He can always lobby for the defense industry.

(Sources for this article include the U.S. Congress biographical records, Worldbook.com, Rollingstone.com, right-web.org, the Boston Globe, and the Project for the New American Century)

The CCM property may be part of the “Rochester burial area,” where the University of Rochester had buried animal carcasses that had been used for testing the effects of radiation. Although the DOE is reported to have excavated the University of Rochester burial area in 1972 to a depth of 10 feet and to have removed 512 cubic yards of soil, drums, and debris from the site, the results from the Corps of Engineers testing would indicate that this area is far from decontaminated.

The Corps of Engineers report indicated that, in the testing, a total of eight samples contained measurable plutonium. Other radionuclides detected include strontium-90 and radium. These samples included an animal bone, laboratory debris, and subsurface soil samples. The plutonium and strontium contamination is assumed to be from the University of Rochester radiation experiments, while the radium would have come from the storage of uranium refining waste, known as K-65 residue. The findings by the Corps indicate that this waste is not a potential danger to the public because the surface soil “exhibited near background levels” and because the site is currently “inaccessible to the public.” On the other hand, excavation of the site, as Chemical Waste Management proposed, would bring to the surface contaminated subsurface soil. This would expose both workers and the public to soil contaminated with some of the most carcinogenic substances known to human.

The issue of contamination at the Chemical Waste Management property was brought up at a press conference, called by Residents for Responsible Government, on September 17, at a cemetery just a mile west of the hazardous landfill. On the same day, Chemical Waste Management hosted an open house for the local residents. Vince Agnello, president of Residents for Responsible Government, asked Gov. George Pataki for his intervention concerning Chemical Waste Management’s request to obtain an excavation permit to dig on the site, despite New York State Department of Health orders prohibiting digging on this radiologically contaminated site. Flanking Agnello at the press conference were local officials, union representative Roger Cook, and two state representatives, Senator George Maziarz and Francine DelMonte.

This fight pits some weighty state and federal agencies against each other. The opposing forces include the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation against the Residents for Responsible Government, the Niagara County Legislature, and the New York State Department of Health. The disputed site is part of the original Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, which the federal government, during and after World War II, used to store “Manhattan Project” wastes. In 1972, the state department of health prohibited the release of this land into private hands for unrestricted use. Chemical Waste Management began operating this landfill site in 1988. The Department if Energy decommissioned the site and released it for unrestricted use.

A letter from the state department of health, dated August 19, stated, “Based on the documentation provided by Chemical Waste Management to date, as well as our review of available data, we are unable to substantiate the Department of Energy’s conclusion that the affected properties can be released for unrestricted use.” It further requests that, “since there is a potential for residual soil contamination and potential ground water contamination, the department of health must evaluate current site conditions before we can approve earth moving activities. Therefore (the department of health) requests that Chemical Waste Management submit a plan for monitoring ground water for radioactive contaminants for developed areas and a plan for air monitoring for currently active areas.”

Chemical Waste Management has agreed to submit soil and water samples for radiological testing to a lab in St. Louis, Mo. The EPA has refused to review the Department of Energy surveys of the site, and it has complimented the state’s department of environmental conservation for the fine job that it is doing in managing the site. The Niagara County legislature passed a resolution on September 7 requesting that a full State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, including public hearings, be used regarding the expansion of the Chemical Waste Management site.

Maziarz is planning to make personal contact with the governor to persuade him to intervene on behalf of the local residents. If this does not work, Agnello is prepared to start local petition drives and rallies to block the proposed Chemical Waste Management expansion.

I Can’t Remember Anything is the first production presented by the new Gerald Fried Theatre Company. The company was founded this year by brothers Manny and Gerald Fried, actress Rosalind Cramer, and playwright Rebecca Ritchie. Directed by Sheila McCarthy, the play features Manny Fried in the role of Leo and Rosalind Cramer in the role of Leonora.

Leonora is a beautifully dressed social butterfly who is frustrated by her memory lapses and discouraged by the knowledge that her husband and all of her friends except for Leo are deceased. At one point, Leonora says in frustration, “Sometimes I think I remembered something... I wonder if I’m imaginary.” Leo is more of an analytical person, who wants and seems to need time alone. He has very little tolerance for small talk or conversation that he perceives to be mindless chatter. “I like women. I just don’t like dumb women,” Leo tells Leonora, who wonders if perhaps he just doesn’t like women. As an old man, Leo needs his solitude more than ever. Leo also is very conscious of his physical limitations. He talks about suffering from “gas disease” and stress, and about the possibility of stroke.

Through the dialogue and the realistic acting by both performers, the two characters come to life. Both Leo and Leonora wonder about the point of their own existence. Leo comments, “All we are is a lot of talking nitrogen.” Leonora, who no longer receives party invitations, says, “I can’t for the life of me figure out why I haven’t died.” Their sadness at losing valuable parts of their lives weighs on them. In one poignant exchange, Leonora relates that she has forgotten about the spices that she used for cooking and, in fact, hardly remembers that she did cook. Leo gently reminds her about the rosemary that she used, sharing with her how tender her lamb and string beans were.

Kurt Schneiderman describes Mother Dis-Courage as “just another absurdist, neo-Brechtian, anti-imperialist extravaganza.” He created this one-act play as a loose takeoff of Bertold Brecht’s play, Mother Courage, about a woman who doesn’t want her sons to die in war while, at the same time, making her living from the continuation of that war. In Mother Dis-Courage, the characters are types, rather than realistic portrayals of people. At times, it seems that they are aware of the fact that they are characters in a play. The types include Mr. Moneybags (Donald Gallo), an employer who is focused on the bottom line to the detriment of his workers, Mother Dis-Courage (Kate Olena), a woman who doesn’t want her own son to die but who doesn’t seem to care if other people’s sons die, and Son Dis-Courage (Rich Kraemer), a confused young man who joined the military because Mr. Moneybags told him that he had to participate in “killing other people” and in “stealing their natural resources.”

“America is great because of money and killing!”

Mother Dis-Courage is a literary play, incorporating elements of Mother Courage and of Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol. Berthold Brecht (Keith Elkins) and Britney Spears (Jeannine Giftear) appear as narrator of the tale. Brecht’s obscure poetic recitations clash with Spear’s “narration” for the radio program, “All Things Belabored.” Later in the play, Brecht, carrying his chains, appears as a Jacob Marley type, warning Mother Dis-Courage of both her and her son’s potential fate. Brecht tells Mother Dis-Courage that she will be visited by the Ghosts of Imperialist Invasions of the past, present, and future. The ghosts turn out to be George Orwell (Emanuel Fried), John Lennon (Kevin Costa), and Paul McCartney (Ron Leonardi).

The dialogue in Mother Dis-Courage is pointed and topical. The issues brought up occupy the news headlines of today, and they include pre-emptive war, the abuse of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, video games, George W. Bush, prejudice against Arabs, and attitudes toward China. Despite the unpleasant reality of the issues brought up, the play never becomes tedious or tasteless. It always stays in the realm of political satire, and, as such, makes for far better entertainment than the daily newspaper.

The Toronto Film Festival, a cinematic playpen for the rich and famous as well as for the true blue devoted film fan, is underway, having opened Thursday, September 9. It runs through Saturday, Sept. 18. If you juggle your schedule just right, you might be able to catch seven movies a day. It’s been done. Many of the movie-crazy see five or six films a day, and average guys and gals are mightily pleased with three or four choices. The most I’ve ever seen in a single day is six features.

In spite of special passes and advance sales, it is absolutely possible to drive up to Toronto and enjoy the festival. Anyone who goes should be able to see at least 3 movies with no hassle. The secret is to be open to anything and everything. Don’t discriminate. Sure you might want to hang-out in the same theater space as some of this year’s stars like Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Danny Glover, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Sarsgaard, Dustin Hoffman, Hilary Swank, Colin Firth, Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, Andy Garcia, Joan Allen, Jamie Foxx, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn, Sandra Bullock, Joseph Fiennes, Orlando Bloom, Susan Sarandon, Lily Tomlin, Helen Hunt, Nick Nolte or Al Pacino; and you just might get lucky, but most movies have the director and a star or two in tow to introduce the film in the theater.

The best advice for those of you simply driving up is to get an early start and make the rounds of the theaters showing festival films. Look at the big board, and then the lobby standee for which showings actually have tickets available. Buy what you need, at around $16.00 Canadian. Theaters showing movies include the Cumberland, Varsity, Paramount, Elgin, Art Gallery Of Ontario Auditorium, Royal Ontario Museum Auditorium, the Ryerson Theatre, and Roy Thompson Hall where the star-packed Galas are shown. If screenings are sold out, there’s always the possibility of standing in line for a Rush Seat, but that’s a time-waster and your getting in depends on the length of the line. Additionally, the movie might have already started by the time you make it into the auditorium. Rush Seats for the Galas are usually available, but you will sit way up high in the third balcony. You can also go to the festival box offices at the ManuLife Centre on Bloor near Bay Street or the College Park location on Yonge near College. Or call 416-968-FILM and ask “what’d’ya got?” for your chosen day.

Some of the movies slated to play the festival this year include Head In The Clouds, The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, Beyond The Sea, The Libertine, Return To Sender, The Merchant Of Venice, Modigliani, Ray, The Motorcycle Diaries, A Good Woman, Stage Beauty, I Heart Huckabee, The Woodsman, Haven, Crash, Due South, Imaginary Heroes, Red Dust, Trauma, Wilby Wonderful, Siblings, Being Julia, P.S., Kinsey, Clean, Hotel Rwanda, Childstar, and so much more. But, let’s face it, a lot of you are cinephiles of the highest order, so how about this for your schedule; yep, you can go to the festival and hopefully see new works such as: Catherine Breillat’s Anatomie de L’enfer, Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique, Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education, Wim Wenders’ Land Of Plenty, John Waters’ A Dirty Shame, Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, Carlo Mazzacurati’s An Italian Romance, John Sayles’ Silver City, Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, and top it off with an anthology picture entitled Eros, with segments by Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Soderbergh, and Wong Kar Wai.

If it’s autographs you seek, hanging out around the Four Seasons Hotel or Roy Thomson Hall will satisfy your craving for movie stars, but they can be spotted anywhere. At Roy Thomson, where the Galas are held, the stars stroll the red carpet. There are true blue autograph hounds everywhere, some of them from Buffalo. In fact, years ago I promised never to reveal his identity, but one of the world’s – that’s world’s – greatest autograph collectors lives in Buffalo. He’s always at the Toronto Festival. How many signatures has he collected in his 40-plus years? Try more than 20,000. A tip of my hat to him.

If you can’t make it to Toronto, there’s always new material for home viewing. From Strand Releasing, which holds the gold standard for unique features, comes the DVD releases of Swoon and A Thousand Clouds Of Peace. Swoon is the exceptional, award-winning 1992 drama, stunningly photographed in black and white by Ellen Kuras, that tells the infamous true story of Leopold and Loeb, two very bright young Jewish men who, in 1920s Chicago, kidnapped and murdered a boy named Bobby Franks. In the film, the idea for the murder rises out of a desire to simply see if it could be done. The movie is chilling in its reality and sense of thrill-seeking, a cautionary take for today. It’s superbly written and directed by Tom Kalin. The DVD is a newly remastered version of the movie and is loaded with extras including commentary track, the original theatrical trailer, photo galleries of the filmmakers and the actual Leopold and Loeb trial, movie stills, and posters. Twelve years after its initial acclaimed release, the well-acted Swoon continues to have the power to overwhelm and merit discussion. A Thousand Clouds Of Peace is from Mexico and is written and directed by Julian Hernandez. Its full Mexican title is Mil Nubes de Paz Cercan el Cielo, Amor, Jamás Acabarás de Ser Amor. The 2003 movie has wowed audiences at film festivals, including Sundance. At the highly-competitive Berlin International Film Festival, it won the prestigious Teddy Award for Best Film, and was subsequently nominated for seven Mexican Oscars.

Festival movies are often a world unto themselves and many never receive theatrical release in the United States. DVD and VHS offer movie fanatics the opportunity to catch unusual films they might never get to see. A Thousand Clouds Of Peace is worth finding. The movie follows a young gay teenager in the big city, which is almost a Golden Age Of Hollywood cliché. Director Hernandez fully understands the empty heart the gay teen carries wherever he goes. He’s just broken up with his older, male lover, and wanders crowded streets quite lonely and in despair. The movie might be rooted in homosexual relationships, but its theme is universal. It’s about longing and desire and needs. Hernandez has delivered a frank and complex work that is a fascinating to look at visually, as it is to listen to its message of hope.

When lazing by the swimming pool in a pool of blood, do you ever think about how your family’s gene pool is kind of a cesspool?

Until I get a social life, I’ve been rewatching my Alias season one DVDs. In that season, Sydney Bristow is a double agent, so she’s always getting missions from an evil, fake CIA and then going back to the virtuous, actual CIA with this question: “What’s my countermission?” I kind of like the word “countermission.” Maybe because it would be fun to lie constantly, betray my colleagues, and destroy my employer from within. That would really pass the time.

The redundancy of the week: “alcohol-induced hangover.” As opposed to what, an alcohol-induced pregnancy? Or a sledgehammer-induced hangover?

Two of my favorite euphemisms for taking a shit are “laying an egg” and “dropping the bomb.” I guess I like that sweet, motherly feeling of giving life, and also that God-like, fatherly feeling of snuffing it out. Both are cool.

I always wanted goons, but I’d settle for minions.

Rage seems to be all the rage these days, as various folks have seriously used the terms “zoo rage,” “tax rage,” “Bible rage,” “golf rage,” “sidewalk rage,” and “salad bar rage.” I hope that this trend continues and we’ll soon read about or experience “bunny rage,” “cheese grater rage,” “altar boy rage,” “panda rage,” “bowling shoe rage,” “tranquilizer dart rage,” “liquefied chicken manure rage,” and maybe even “sponge bath rage.”

I wonder how many “people who take the short bus to school” (stupid people) “drive the porcelain bus” (vomit) while “riding the magic bus” (tripping on acid or ‘shrooms). More than few, I expect.

While talking with my friend Tina in a coffee shop, I heard a barista shout, “Tall virgin on wheels!” Though I soon learned that these words referred to a medium decaf coffee to go, I had two immediate thoughts: 1) Hello to the imagery! and 2) our more barbaric ancestors would surely have appreciated a tall virgin on wheels; you could just wheel her right up to the volcano and — ploop — drop her in.

Outside of limericks, very little English literature contains the words “Nantucket” or “Lewinsky.”

Next time you’re trying to describe something that’s neither horrific nor terrific, try one of these real words I found with Google: spider-iffic, hair-iffic, sitar-iffic, horror-iffic, lobster-iffic, scooter-iffic, allergy-iffic, prankster-iffic, cholesterol-iffic, birdcage-iffic, monster-iffic, terror-iffic, gore-iffic, Hitler-iffic, ogre-iffic, toddler-iffic, boner-iffic, blister-iffic, poseur-iffic, weather-iffic, scare-iffic, Cher-iffic, odor-iffic, mediocre-iffic, dinosaur-iffic, wanker-iffic, squid-er-iffic, mosher-iffic, twister-iffic, clunker-iffic, murder-iffic, whore-iffic, terrier-iffic, and vampire-iffic.

How did the waffle get associated with waffling? Is it somehow less steadfast and true than a pancake?

You can say, “The new Star Wars movies suck” around more people than you can say “The new Star Wars movies blow,” even though “suck” and “blow” have about the same meaning. I guess “suck,” because it’s so popular, has been more thoroughly rehabilitated and drained of filth. It also doesn’t help that “blow” is one half of “blow job”; that’s just a little too reminiscent of what the phrase actually means.

I worked in a nursing home as a maintenance man one summer, and one of my colleagues uttered these words, which I still live by: “Medical waste… it’s not good to taste.”

If a bleeding heart liberal and a compassionate conservative saw a five-hanky chick flick in the nosebleed seats together, would they drown in their own tears and blood?

The words of the week:

10) Smurf

9) Buttmunch

8) Piggy

7) Smegma-free

6) Skankspionage

5) Ninny

4) Dweebitude

3) Phlegm

2) Vulva-savvy

1) Diddle

A great moment: While walking between work and a sushi place, I overheard three batshit-loony-looking dudes on the street having a debate over whether “paranoid” and “schizophrenic” meant the same thing. God bless America.

Wordluster Mark Peters wants to hear your thoughts, jokes, and questions about language, including favorite words, memorable goofs, trenchant observations, and other word-ish material. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In fact, from the moment that more than 500,000 people stepped off at Seventh Avenue and West 15th Street on Sunday afternoon through the arrest of the last sixteen anarcho-kids at 30th Street and Eighth Avenue shortly after midnight on Friday, September 3, the anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-corporate, and anti-capitalist demonstrators who came together for more than four days to express their displeasure with the direction the world is heading cemented a bond that had been forming since before the infamous 1999 demonstrations in Seattle. In and about lower Manhattan all day and night last week, tens of thousands roamed with purpose, entirely sincere, and willing to prove it. Take Father Simon Harak, Jesuit priest and anti-militarism coordinator with the War Resisters League. As 4 p.m. approached on August 31, designated a day of direct action by many groups involved in the week’s events, members of the War Resisters League, the School of the Americas Watch, the Latin American Solidarity Movement, and others lined-up two-by-two in front of Ground Zero, prepared to take an unpermitted march as close to Madison Square Garden as the police would let them. Many intended to participate in a “die-in” to protest U.S. military policy, at Madison Square Garden if possible, but, more likely, when the police officers decided the march had proceeded long enough. And Harak was ready to make a physical stand against war profiteering as well. “There used to be a war, and some people profited off of them,” said Harak, moments before the march was to begin. “Now, especially under the Bush administration, these same people are making war for profit. What they’ve done in effect is commandeered our military to take over an entire nation. The economic cost is huge, and the human cost astounding. By staging a die-in, what we want to do is bring the idea of the human cost as close to the convention as possible.” Harak is a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness and has been a priest for 24 years. Currently he serves the St. Vincent Parish in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on the weekends and works with peace activists during the week, he said.

Unfortunately, the march from Ground Zero to Madison Square Garden didn’t go quite as expected. Shortly after a police commander, who remains unidentified, announced to the assembled demonstrators that, as long as they stayed on the sidewalk, walked two-by-two, crossed with the lights, and didn’t block pedestrian or automobile traffic, there would be no problem, the group began crossing Church Street and headed up Fulton, toward a line of police who had closed off Fulton to traffic.

But, just as the sidewalk on Fulton began filling up, officers moved to the front and halted the march’s progress, forcing several people who were expecting to step onto the sidewalk before the Church Street light changed to be momentarily stranded in the street, thereby blocking traffic and giving the NYPD “causes belie.” What proceeded from there was incredible as several men and women were lined up on their knees and handcuffed. About 200 people on Fulton were surrounded by orange netting. Reporters were told not to move or they were “fair game,” and the police proceeded to arrest the whole crew before the march had even had a chance to start.

The arrests didn’t halt the protest from going forward, though, as about 220 people opted to march along the sidewalk up Church Street, toward the Garden via Washington Square Park. They were a quiet, solemn crew, who nevertheless managed to snake their way to Broadway and 28th Street, where 54 members of the group left the line to perform a die-in after dozens of police on bikes, cars, and vans halted the procession.

Eric LeCompte, SOAWatch events and outreach coordinator, estimated the Ground Zero crowd at 2,000 and said the decision to break away and march despite the arrests and heavy police presence was heartening. “I really feel that the action turned out well,” LeCompte said as police attempted to close off the intersection where the 54 “dead” marchers lay. “It was terrible the way this started, with the police illegally arresting more than 200 people. But we intended, and did, let the Bush administration know what its foreign policy is doing to the world.” Other events throughout the week followed a similar path, with police promptly moving to shut down entire blocks as protest sprang up, and demonstrators cropping up elsewhere. Sunday, August 30, is a perfect case in point. Loosely affiliated groups participated in an event known as ‘Mousebloc,” a series of confrontations aimed at RNC delegates and their hangers-on attending dinner and performances near Times Square, the heart of the city’s theater district. Police, as if foreshadowing how they would handle the A31 day of direct action, moved in quickly and shut down streets, intersections, and corners each time a group of protesters moved to block an entrance, occupy a corner, or confront the Republican revelers.

Mounted police rode at a small crowd of about 100 gathered on the island in the Square, which caused a small splinter group of a dozen or so to run off in the direction of the Marriott Hotel. Officers on foot pursued them, blockaded the hotel entrance, and closed down the sidewalk to everyone, even credentialed reporters.

Around the corner a group calling themselves Queer Fist held a “kiss-in,’ in which couples walked slowly along the sidewalk, stopping to kiss soulfully often enough that more than thirty police officers corralled the participants at the corner of 47th and Seventh and arrested them en masse, utilizing the now-familiar orange netting and metal barricades.

Small demonstrations kept popping up at and around Times Square throughout the evening. Police obliged, shutting down sections of the street, rounding up demonstrators and, at times, very few times mind you, getting rough.

One of those instances involved a group called “Food Kitchen,” which brings food to demonstrations across the country. Several members were wondering outside the Palace Theater, where an angry confrontation between demonstrators and presumed RNC attendees leaving the musical Aida broke out, carrying trays of food when several officers moved in, grabbed one, identified by three other members as Mark Randall, knocked his tray of food to the ground and pulled him toward a waiting paddy wagon. As of press time, Alt Press has been unable to discern the whereabouts of Randall.

By the time that Tuesday rolled around, “Mousebloc” seemed a dry run for the protesters and police as lower Manhattan between the Garden and Union Square Park become the scene of untold protests. Marches broke out, seemingly at random. Protesters played cat-and-mouse with the police, allowing them to pursue a group only so long as it took to find a block which hadn’t been shut down and then promptly stop, at times lying in the street until the officers had closed the area off from cars, pedestrians, and media alike. The official arrest count for the evening is more than 1,100, a number that includes many legal observers from both the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, reporters, and folks going about their daily business. Both the NLG and the ACLU are considering filing a class action civil lawsuit against the city and its police force for illegal and “pre-emptive” arrests that took place that night and throughout the week.

Other, calmer activities took place all week, including a tent city called “Bushville” in the blasted wasteland of Bedford-Stuyvesant, an American Friends Service Committee memorial for the fallen (military and civilian) in Iraq, a “Fox Shut-Up-a-thon,” a march on the mass media, rallies throughout the day at Union Square (rallies that often resembled activist bazaars), the last of which culminated in a huge, un-permitted march to the Garden during Bush’s acceptance speech, a labor rally attended by tens of thousands, and many similar, largely un-remarked upon events. All of which begs the question why? Why were sustained demonstrations against the sitting leader of this nation largely ignored by the mainstream, and most so-called alternative, media? If the government of another nation, say Iran, or even a democratic nation such as Mexico, faced half the numbers and half the actions that this one did, our daily press and cable news channels would be all over the scene. They’d pick “leaders” out of the crowd, ask them how horrible their government is, release them and pontificate for days on the few sentences anyone paid attention to. Not here, my friends. Instead, as a workplace colleague, Margaret Galambos, said to me the other day, upon returning from the U.S. Open in New York, “there weren’t that many people, were there? I didn’t see much in the papers or on TV.”

And that, not Gitlin’s paranoia or Taibbi’s prodding, is the problem that the active left faces today.

The audience that Get Urban! aims to capture appears to be the wealthy suburban baby boomers to whom new urban real estate development in places such as Buffalo has been geared.

Ezell defines three desirable urban areas or “urbs.” Post-industrial urbs are comprised of factories that have been converted to cool, pseudo-soho loft spaces. Think Elk Terminal. Garden urbs are “quaint, tree-lined areas, often with historical or significant residential and commercial architecture.”

These are not to be confused with eclectic urbs, which are models of diversity and “funkiness.” Elmwood is given as an example of an eclectic urb, although it clearly seems to fit the definition of both. Ezell insists on calling Allentown and the area around the strip “Greater Elmwood Village.” The annoying habit of coming up with new names for urban areas carries throughout the book for a reason: the author’s rigid public relations mindset. (Personally we prefer the title of People’s Republic of Elmwood, but there’s no accounting for taste.)

Finally, all other areas are relegated to the status of “blank canvas urbs.” So outside of the “Greater Elmwood Village urb,” Buffalo apparently has a lot of blank canvas urbs to offer. That’s the bright and optimistic side.

In reading this book, which proclaims to be a guide to persons seeking to connect their identity type with one type of vital urban area, one can’t help but think that a sort of colonization project is already under way. Driving demand for better urban living areas would appear to be a laudable goal and, although self-appointed urban cheerleaders such Ezell or various Buffalo News writers can be very annoying indeed, it would seem that most everyone you talk to wants Buffalo to “make a comeback.”

When one considers the fact that federal housing money was pumped into Ciminelli’s Sidway loft conversion project at the rate of about $180,000 per unit, however, optimism should give way to a more healthy skepticism. Ezell points out the need for urban energy in all successful “urban renewal.” Time and again, though, Buffalo’s urban energy has been dissipated, along with federal dollars, on isolated, politically driven projects that have yet to result in the creation of a single new “urb” of any sort.

In addition, the predilection for what Chippewa Strip entrepreneur Mark Goldman called “deathstars” (monolithic public construction projects that punch holes in the fabric of urban neighborhoods) seems to continue with the enormously expensive bioinformatics “signature building,” on Washington Street.

In terms of the success of the Elmwood area’s continued stability in the real estate market, it’s sobering to note that much of the rest of the city’s west side has more or less collapsed. Therefore, people attracted to Elmwood for its “funkiness” must pay a premium for housing that is funky, but a safe distance from crack dens.

The downside that doesn’t appear in this work is that, while disinvestment in urban areas continues to bounce along the bottom, federal aid to cities, long abused by corrupt city governments such as the Masiello administration, appears to be in danger as well. As political power shifts to the sun belt, so will federal dollars needed to prop the bloated infrastructures of ubiquitous sprawl. What our own optimistic regional planners, such as the Giambra administration’s Bruce Fisher, don’t want to talk about is the growing inclination of the federal government to turn its back on such places as Buffalo. While this reached a new level with the sudden postponement of the federal courthouse project by Republicans in power, one can’t expect the Democrats, if brought back into power this fall to keep the gravy train flowing into urban renewal projects that have often done more harm than good in the Northeast.

The Bush debacle aside, if Democrats seek to maintain power, they must build a strong constituency in the so-called “red states.”

Dark, clean, and crisp, yet inviting, Prespa offers the city something unique. Instead of the typical restaurant/bar combination, Prespa is a comfortable bar/lounge that simply happens to have a great menu with a chef to back it up. The ample couches, elegant bar, side rail, fireplace and abstract artwork make a good backdrop for the melting-pot crowd. The offerings from Prespa’s stellar beer list and the more than adequate wine list are other aspects fostering flirtatious conversation. Entrepreneur/restaurateur Alex Michaelidis and his staff should be extremely proud of their first venture.

“There is not a thing on the menu I would not order.” “Relaxing alternative to Allen Street.” “Warm and inviting.”

Menu:

Salads: Mesclun greens, grilled asparagus, tomato, goat cheese

Panini: # Grilled Chicken Breast, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, red onion, avocado aioli on rustic Italian

Wasabi Roast Beef, romaine, tomato on spinach bread

Pizza:Red Pie – tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil with Vidalia onion, and Portabella mushrooms

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Cake * Chocolate Brownie Cheese Cake with Caramel

Beverages: Sterling Merlot, 2002, Central Coast * Hop Harvest Draft, Custom Brew Crafters

* -- best of category # -- best of show

...
The Democratic convention was uplifting in its look and attitude, but empty of a concrete plan for America’s future, and too often mired in the swamps of 1970’s Viet Nam. The faces were attractive and bright, the smiles wide and genuine, and the talk was of hope and recovery from the militaristic, isolationist, imperialistic, fear-mongering monarchy America once again suffers under. I admire John Kerry as well, because I was in the service during that Southeast Asian “conflict” LBJ lied us into escalating, and I know my fellow Americans DID commit some heinous crimes over there. I remember being proud of him for coming back and daring to say so out loud. But I wanted to hear the nuggets of future goals an optimistic idealist could latch onto, and had to wait until the Republican convention to hear out of the mouth of George W. Bush, himself. And while I know he will never keep faith with any one of them, they were unarticulated asides of aspirations that should have been coming out of John Kerry’s mouth instead.
The Republican convention was somewhat embarrassing, not just because thousands of protesters from all across the country were being arrested (harkening back to the ‘72 Republican convention) and restrained to the point that a judge had to fine the city for their release, or that it was just a drawn-out homage to a “get over it” event that happened years ago at the expense of issues like the economy, the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the environment, and JOBS, but because speakers like Zell Miller –a Republican with a Democrat label that remains in office because he brings home the bacon whatever clothes he wears, and the ever cartoonish, cracked-lipped caricature of Dick Cheney we are always so creeped-out seeing, just oozed pure mean-spiritedness, pettiness, anger and poor policy defensive braying. Even “Ahnold” (a Republican married to a member of the Democrat’s most influential clan Kennedy), who I am a huge fan of, did a greasy faced, pretentious exhortation of clichés and flat-out falsehoods that made one wonder where even Conan the Terminator’s limited acting skills had disappeared to. I was immensely embarrassed for him and, other than twaddle like “Twins”; I’ve never felt that way before. I applaud his rise (with Franco Columbu, another muscle beach import) from humble immigrant beginnings to world-renowned movie idol and governor of California, one of the most socially progressive states in the nation, but his poorly written, and even more poorly delivered harangue rang raucously empty in the lock-step, Stepford delagates' summer sweat-soaked auditorium.
CNN’s, as well as C-SPAN’s coverage repeatedly panned frowning, brooding and bored faces throughout the convention and the fields of flags and metronomic cheers of “flip-flop” rang as hollow as the phony patriotism which has forever been “the last refuge of a scoundrel”. And when George W. Bush finally spoke, from “No Child Left Behind”-one of his poorest funded programs as anyone who knows a teacher or has a child in school knows all too well, to the “war” in Iraq-both his justification for it: WMD’s, terrorist connections, and his oft touted, but unprovided support for both our troops and a democratic (non-puppet) Iraqi government, he lied. That even just a room full of Americans cheered this Orwellian disinformation (up is down, war is peace, hate is love) diatribe was disheartening to any progressive leaning, late blooming, baby boomer.
What has democracy in America been reduced to when one of your only two electable political parties is an affiliation of selfish and self-serving, bold-faced liars, and the other is a party of high ideals but little expectations of those it exists to help? Where do we go as a nation from here? A massive overhaul of our electoral system has to be engineered before capitalism’s greed-driven engine and ethically corruptive legislative meddling turns American democracy into a corporate theocracy, and every “right” it was founded to provide is restricted or reserved for the “fortunate” few. This is our time. History will look back at us and judge our choices and our character by what we do here today. It will say we either saved that bold experiment our founding forefathers undertook, or failed it. VOTE. It’s not just your “right”; it’s your duty. It is your duty to all those who come after to provide the promise your parents left you, and to honor all those who have gone before that made it possible for you to do so.
-alexander graham
"In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers." "In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers." "In Congress, we have voted repeatedly to roll back these harmful provisions, but the Republican leadership has blocked our every attempt. The Bush Administration claims that it set out to 'clarify' overtime regulations for employers. I'd say the only thing this Administration has 'clarified' is its total disregard for American workers."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the new federal regulations could deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans. In addition, three former top U.S. Department of Labor officials, who served under Reagan, Clinton and the first President Bush, examined these new rules and concluded that they "substantially broadened the class of employees who will be exempt, without substantially clarifying the rules for exemption." Depending on how these rules are interpreted, these experts said they could exempt up to 53 million workers, or 40 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The new overtime regulations spell trouble for Western New York workers, who are already suffering from a stagnant economy, continued job loss and a high local tax burden. On Friday, the State Department of Labor reported that Buffalo/Niagara lost 2,600 private sector jobs since last July - the second highest percentage drop among the state's metropolitan areas. In Rochester, 2,300 private sector jobs have disappeared over the last year. Just last week it was also reported that residents of Upstate New York pay an additional $6 billion in local taxes compared to the rest of the nation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to block the overtime regulations. The Senate has twice passed Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) amendment to the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which would prevent the Department of Labor from putting the rules into effect. Last year, the House voted to instruct conferees on the Labor/HHS bill to accept the Harkin language in conference. However, the Republican leadership stripped the language out of the bill. Rep. Slaughter has voted on three separate other occasions to stop the overtime rules, but again the Republican leadership opposed the effort every time. Furthermore, the Department of Labor received over 75,000 comments from the public on the rules, but refused to hold a single public hearing.

Overtime protections were created in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They guarantee most workers time and a half pay for hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek. Considered one of the most basic, bedrock labor protections, overtime provisions cover approximately 115 million workers - or 85 percent of the nation's workforce. In 2000, overtime pay accounted for one-quarter of total income for families earning it.

The arms for hostages deal (Iran Contra) used to blow him into office is going to have to be improved upon if they care that we may pick up on it while they’re still in office. Judging from past actions where caught in the cookie jar (WMD’s, 9/11-Iraq connection, EPA report edits, tax-cut inequities, falsified world body Iraq weapons programs documents, global warming, environmental, and terrorist activity data reports, and a list as long as all of our arms linked together), they won’t.

In the 2004 election only a handful of what are called “swing states” will determine who enters the white house legitimately (the first time for either candidate) to steer America and the world through the next four years; whether to recovery from the recent past or further into the abyss it is now being propelled. Only around ten states will throw this “election” to one party or the other. Organizations like Move-On, as well as both candidates themselves, are concentrating their PR efforts in those handful of uncommitted republics, so we’re actually spending MORE MONEY to convince LESS PEOPLE to pull a particular lever this year than we’ve ever spent on the whole damn country in elections past!

Rumors abound on the net and elsewhere of every kind of October Surprise imaginable from the “discovery” of everything and everyone from WMD’s to Ossama to life on Mars (a Steven Spielberg collaboration no less) to another home-turf terrorist attack that we raised the alert about (for the umpteenth time) but weren’t able to stop.

If you look at the names of the artists Move-On has lined up against Bush in its VOTE FOR CHANGE concert tours of those states you get the idea that some very serious pop stars ( Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks) take this administration’s corruption very seriously. Whether the mass of American voters do will be revealed soon enough.

We can only wonder if, in selecting this site, the entire RNC had lost its collective mind. The Republicans at all levels of government managed to do everything that they could possibly do to ensure nothing less than a hostile reception in this city. The administration has upset labor unions, including New York’s bravest and finest. Bloomberg was forced to lay off workers as the Bush administration stiffed the city out of the $20 million that it promised after the 9/11 attacks. Just up the island is Greenwich Village, home to thousands of unmarried and unhappy homos who can raise an army of supporters from sea to shining sea. MSG is not that far away. Anyone in manufacturing who has lost a job to China might have a gripe as well, even as George W. tries to persuade anyone still employed that it’s OK to get time off instead of being paid time and a half. Any veteran who actually served time in the ‘Nam might have something to say. Dick Cheney used four or five deferments, claiming that, at the time, he had “other priorities,” besides getting blown to bits in some rice paddy. No one is sure where George W. spent the war. I doubt if he himself remembers.

John Kerry may have his GOP bought and paid for critics, but at least he was there.

Besides labor, gays, veterans against the war (and Bush), there remains a long list of students, environmentalist, and health and political activists who have a gripe against Bush’s misguided adventure in Iraq.

It is anticipated that more than 250,000 demonstrators will find their way to New York for the convention.

Legendary Madison Square Garden is the place, and the elite of the GOP will grace its stage for the George W. Bush love fest. The prime time speakers include the top of the heap. Leading off on Monday night will be Mayor Mike Bloomberg himself. In the number two slot will be former mayor Rudi Giuliani, to be followed by slugger Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). On Tuesday, we see First Lady Laura Bush, Education Secretary Rod Paige and the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can’t understand this choice. Even though anointed by Lord Rothschild himself, Arnold is new to elected office. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal Hispanic voters in California have something to do with his appearance. Perhaps they believe his speech will hasten the arrival of their driver’s licenses. Wednesday finds Lynne Cheney speaking, followed by the Darth Vader of the GOP, her very own husband, Dick Cheney. After Dick speaks, Senator Zell Miller, a DEMOCRAT from Georgia will try to follow his nastiness. Miller must be thrilled indeed to follow the vice president. I’m sure that the entire convention will be interested in hearing every word from a turncoat southern DEMOCRAT who has dared to defile a REPUBLICAN love fest.

Thursday night is the main event. Our very own Governor George Pataki will speak just prior to the acceptance speech by the wooden puppet who wants to be a real live boy: President of the United States George W. Bush.

It is a formidable lineup, a political murders row of unprecedented power. The late Lee Atwater would have been impressed. Richard Nixon would have only sighed and wished for what could have been.

Guess who’s not coming to party???

Secretary of State Colin Powel will not make an appearance. Deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said on Tuesday that “The secretary does not plan to attend.” This decision demonstrates that the secretary, unlike the RNC, has not lost his mind. But his absence will raise many political eyebrows. Is he trying to save what little credibility he still has? After he was ill used by the administration before the WMD fiasco at the UN, Powell has taken a back seat to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon in matters of foreign policy. Perhaps he knows that his tenure ends with a Bush re-election, and he is rebuilding some political capital. Perhaps he also knows that an escape from New York, with thousands of upset protesters lurking at every corner of mid-town Manhattan, might be a little bit difficult.

The Guns (and heat) of August

Summer in Manhattan is second only to summer in Washington, D.C, for its sweltering heat and humidity. Heavily armed and armored Robocops will not be in the best of humor as they try to contain the hundreds of scattered protests by the thousands of equally unhappy opposition members. Heat casualties could be heavy on both sides of the lines. The Robocops will have the advantage of interior lines, with supplies continually available. Protesters will have to fend for themselves. Rank and file New Yorkers may have little use for the Bushes. But they may resent having their downtown turned into a combat zone. The good news for the protesters is that tear gas may not be used. The bad news is that the police may use rubber bullets. At close range, the phrase “rubber bullet” may suggest something benign. But propelled by a 12-gauge shell, the close quarter effect will not be so. Ask those who participated in the WTO protests in Miami last year. A puppet will give little cover.

The Opposition

On Sunday, August 29, the protesting begins in earnest. The World says No to the Bush Agenda: United for Peace and Justice will “host” a march past Madison Square Garden, followed by a rally. On Monday, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the Still We Rise Coalition are co-sponsoring a march and rally to support HIV/AIDS health care, welfare reform, immigrant issues, housing/homelessness, and criminal justice issues. There are enough social issues to attract thousands of protesters. How they will all fit together remains to be seen. Perhaps the point is for them not fit but to spill out all over Manhattan. At the same time, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union presents another march, beginning at the United Nations and ending at Madison Square Garden. It is hoped that they won’t collide with the folks just mentioned.

Tuesday could see some eye-to-eyeball confrontations. The One Million Yeses and One NO! people are planning a direct demonstration against the Free Speech Zones (police pens). There could be some major league action here. At the same time, the noRNC Youth are calling for “a youth day of action.” What this could be is anybody’s guess.

On Wednesday, the New York City Labor Council will host a massive union rally and march.

These are the main events. There are hundreds of other organizations that are planning to head to the Big Apple to join in the festivities. Manhattan could well become more densely populated than Bangladesh.

Adding to the population will be about 20,000 Republican Party delegates, donors, and officials, who are expected to attend the convention. Following all the action will be a press circus, featuring 15,000 members of the various media. Getting to the center of activities should be easy for conventioneers as the majority of the delegates’ hotels are within a one-mile radius of the convention center.

Delegates and media should expect to meet up with most of the protesters. More than likely, all three groups will meet to discuss the various burning issues of the day.

Bloomberg’s office has issued a press release describing all of the street closures around the vicinity. Many will be closed to all vehicular traffic, and many areas will be restricted to pedestrians who have a “business-related” reason to enter. A designated protest area has been set up on 31st Street at 8th Avenue.

The robocops are busily preparing, as well. Details are, of course, classified, but one can imagine the preparations. Robocop will have plenty of back up.

Meanwhile, the Counter Convention organization is estimating that the protests around the Republican Convention could very well be “the largest in history.”

There is no reason to doubt their prediction.

Masiello Ignores Mutual Assistance Rule

In situations such as these, the strategy of the Masiello administration has been to rely on a mutual assistance agreement between Buffalo and neighboring municipalities, created in 1977. Fire Department representatives have pointed out that there is no plan in place to call Buffalo firefighters, even though an on-call detail of the BFD could respond faster than units from other municipalities. In fact, the 1977 agreement explicitly states, “Off-duty personnel (from the BFD) will be re-called for immediate duty and will be compensated at the rate of time and one half...” in the event of such an emergency.

This has not been happening, however. The administration has sought to obtain mutual aid without declaring an emergency, thereby avoiding paying time and a half to Buffalo firefighters.

“They got the County people ready to respond, but they never actually had to call them in. They dodged a bullet,” Lucca said.

“We have asked the mayor’s office and (the city’s acting fire commissioner) Mike D'Orazio to put a plan in place, and they have refused our request to even talk about putting an emergency call back plan in place. It’s beyond belief. I can’t believe that anybody in their position would ignore the needs of the citizens for political reasons,” he added.

Of course, these days, any discussion involving emergency planning must involve the possibility of terrorism. Although the federal Department of Homeland Security has earmarked at least eight million dollars for these purposes, it appears that the county has hijacked the funds. “We still haven’t seen the benefit of those security dollars,” Lucca said. “We believe Mayor (Anthony) Masiello has bargained away those dollars to the county.”

Lucca said that he believes that this puts the community at risk unnecessarily. He said that he suspects that The Buffalo News has avoided coverage of these issues for the same reason that it failed to cover the major fire on Howard Street: the editorial staff's support of the Control Board's blatant anti-union agenda.

Control Board Strategy: Divide and Conquer

The Control Board was, in large part, created by the Republican Party's need to attain something that they could never achieve at the polls in the City of Buffalo – power. M&T Bank CEO and the ideological leader of the Control Board, Bob Wilmers, has been the point man in the all-out war against the city's three most powerful unions representing police officers, firefighters, and public school teachers.

Hopes that a funding crisis would put the teachers’ union at Wilmer's mercy appear to have been ill founded. Only the governor’s veto of spending on education as legislators appear ready to allocate enough money to the district to stave off the push toward privatization represented by the charter school movement, at least for this year.

Now State Supreme Court Justice Nelson H. Cosgrove's decision to force the city to make promised pay increases to the Buffalo Police Department has created the possibility of another defeat for Wilmers and the Control Board.

While Control Board Chairman Thomas Baker has expressed confidence that the board can get the ruling overturned upon appeal, he and fellow Wilmers supporters on the editorial board of The Buffalo News portrayed the victory for the Police Benevolent Association as a major threat to the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Union, and white-collar workers for the city.

As transparent as the strategy might seem, it appears to have had some effectiveness with some of the rank and file firefighters. One firefighter we talked to on condition of anonymity expressed frustration with Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association President Joe Foley, emphasizing the need for the union to play “hardball” in negotiations and admitting to an “us vs. them” attitude with the Buffalo Police. “(PBA President) Bob Meeghan gets them pay raises and we're left holding the bag? We're already stretched to the limit. You can't make any concessions with these people. We've made too many concessions to them already.”

“Of course, there’s frustration on our part,” Lucca said of the police contract. “But the police contract wasn’t even honored and the Control Board is still fighting it. Plus they had to give up quite a bit to get those pay raises. The police tend to come first because fighting crime is paramount in most people’s minds.”

Buffalo News Fails to Publish Firefighters Critique of Fire Study

The city commissioned a study of the Buffalo Fire Department to MMA Consultants of Boston, Mass. The results were a number of suggestions for departmental reorganization. Not surprisingly, The Buffalo News has failed to allow the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association to give their input on the recommendations, despite the fact that the union agrees with some of the study’s findings.

The union has put its response to the study online on its website, http://www.local282iaff.com

Here are a few excerpts from the response:

“We believe that MMA’s analysis of Buffalo Fire Department Operations and the city’s fire suppression needs is superficial. Relevant criteria were not considered in some of their recommendations.”

“We know that some of their data were inaccurate, which can lead to incorrect conclusions. We also believe that the methodology they employed in their mapping analysis, which attempted to show that their suggested relocation/firehouse closing plan would still enable the city to meet the response time standards of NFPA 1710, does not answer the fundamental question posed by the standard: Can the City of Buffalo put one engine on the scene in four minutes, and a full assignment (as determined after performing a task analysis for the typical fire to be expected in our municipality) on the scene in eight minutes?”

“They cherry-picked what they wanted from this study,” Lucca said pointing out that the only thing from the study that has been implemented is the closing of firehouses. “They haven’t upgraded training. We’ve been without a commissioner for eight months now. No new rigs. No new firehouses. Nothing. Absolutely zero. What we’re saying is if you’re going to follow this study’s recommendations, follow them.”

2 p.m. Protest Starbucks Bush has assisted Starbucks in crushing a newly formed union at a Manhattan store. Meet in front of Starbucks on 36th and Madison in midtown Manhattan (take the 6 train to 33rd Street) and then march to Starbucks regional headquarters on 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue. See starbucksunion.org for more information.

5:30 p.m. Ring Out against the RNC Bell Ringing at Ground Zero. Take a look at www.RingOut.org or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday, August 29 – The RNC Begins

9 a.m. Youth Feeder March to the United for Peace and Justice March and Rally Meet at Columbus Circle, Southwest corner of Central Park at 59th Street. Hosted by the Youth RNC Welcoming Committee.

Progressive Jewish Breakfast and Protest Join progressive Jews for breakfast before the UPJ march. There will be bagels and coffee, a space for ritual and organizing, and speakers and education. At 11:30 a.m., the group will march to join the United for Peace and Justice March. This will be followed by a protest at 1 p.m. at the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Plaza Hotel (58th Street and Fifth Avenue). Sponsored by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (212) 646-8966, ext. 11.

Unauthorized Protest on the Great Lawn in Central Park This is a call from the Manhattan Libertarian Party to ignore the city's refusal to allow a rally at the park. DISCLAIMER: The Libertarian Party is a pro-capitalist group that believes in privatizing everything from welfare to schools. While their politics are at odds with the RNCNotWelcome.org collective, we respect their refusal to seek a permit and agree when they say, "If you ask the government for permission to protest it, you deserve to be told no."

3 p.m. (See 5 p.m.) Calls for Action Against Broadway Plays There has been a call for a "Mouse Bloc" and "Chaos on Broadway" to "Disrupt [the RNC delegates'] merry-making."

5 p.m. RNC Delegates attend Broadway Plays To be sure, the shows that they plan to see will not be “Hairspray,” “Rent,” or “The Producers.”

Monday, August 30

8:30 a.m. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with Libby Pataki To be held at Tiffany's Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. (212) 755-8000

4 p.m. Poor Peoples's Campaign's March For Our Lives United Nations, 45th Street and First Avenue. Sponsored by Kensington Welfare Rights Union.

Big Tent Event, sponsored by the Republican Unity Coalition who wants to "make homosexuality a "non-issue" for the Republican Party." To be held at the Bryant Park Grill, 25 W. 40th St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. (212) 840-6500 or (212) 206-8815. Fax (212) 206-8841.

Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Mobilization to focus on ending Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York and other mandatory minimum sentences throughout the United States.

Poor People's March sponsored by Still We Rise, a large coalition of community-based organizations.

10 p.m. – 1 a.m. Post-Convention Party for New York and New Jersey delegations At Cipriani's, 89 E. 42nd St. between Park and Vanderbilt avenues. (212) 973-0999.

Tuesday, August 31

One No, a Million Yeses! A call for direct action at the RNC by local anti-authoritarians. This day is meant as a day of creative action outside the pens that are too often called "free speech zones." Weekly spokescouncil meetings on Tuesdays.

Youth Day of Action called by the Youth RNC. Welcoming Committee. Read their call here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

9:30 a.m. Finance Roundtable, Sponsored by the Bank of America at the Tavern on the Green, Central Park at West 67th Street. For more information, call (212) 873-3200 or fax (212) 580-4265.

3 p.m. Luncheon sponsored by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca at the St. Regis Hotel, Two East 55th Street, at Fifth Avenue. (212) 753-4500 Fax (212) 787-3447. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4:30 - 7:30 p.m. New York Delegation Reception Sponsored by Kodak at the Tavern on the Green Central Park at West 67th Street. (212) 873-3200 Fax (212) 580-4265

10 p.m. – 1 a.m. Post-convention party, sponsored by the American Gas Association, at Noche, 1604 Broadway, between 48th and 49th streets. (212) 541-7070

Immigrant-Worker Solidarity Day Of Action and Conference. For more information, contact Lee Siu Hin Tel (Immigrant Solidarity Network): (626) 695-3405 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wednesday, September 1

1 p.m. Luncheon at the Central Park Boathouse, honoring House Speaker Dennis Hastert's wife, Jean. Sponsored by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, who stands to make a fortune with "freer" trade with Mexico.

4 p.m. Working for Working Families Labor Rally. Meet at Eighth Avenue and 30th Street.

6 p.m. Panty Performance Protest. A "Mass Flash" in Battery Park City, southwest Manhattan, to create a media spectacle that lays bare the shameful tactics of the Bush administration and boldly demands an end to political cover-up. More information at axisofeve.org.

7 - 9 p.m. Permitted rally by the National Organization of Women In the East Meadow of Central Park. More information at nownyc.org

8 p.m. St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th Street DEMO: A Demonstration in Words Featuring 20 poets, including Anselm Berrigan, Cornelius Eady, Bob Holman, Eileen Myles, Katha Pollitt, and Vijay Seshadri. Organized by Ram Devinini and Jen Benka. Free admission.

10 p.m. RNC Reception at Crobar. This event is sponsored by the American Gas Association, 530 W. 28th St. between 10th and 11th avenues. (212) 629-9000

10 p.m.- 1 a.m. Post-convention party, sponsored by the American Gas Association, at Noche, 1604 Broadway, between 48th and 49th streets. (212) 541-7070

10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Copacabana, 560 W. 34th St. at 11th Ave. RNC "Hispanic Event" (those are their words, not ours. Sponsored by (ironically) Coca-Cola. (212) 239-2672

Thursday, September 2:

RNC Ends as a Total Failure!

Bush expected to receive the Republican nomination.

5 – 7 p.m. Madame Tussaud's, 234 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth avenues in the heart of Times Square). New York delegation reception, (800) 246-8872

10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Water Club, 500 East 30th Street on the East River Post-Convention Party sponsored by the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis.

Party in Tompkins Square, Avenue A and Ninth Street. One People's Project (212) 479-7362

Anti-RNC Cloudbuster Operations From one or more undisclosed locations on the Brooklyn waterfront, the Brooklyn Orgastic Politics Collective will redirect the flow of Orgone Energy above Manhattan, attempting to "suck the fascism" from Madison Square Garden as George W. Bush is renominated.

Stealth Charter School Attack Repelled.

Remember our article on Chris Jacobs? He's kind of like the character of Michael in The Godfather. He'd probably like to just get out and enjoy the fruits of the Jacobs family empire, but he keeps getting pulled back in. He got elected to the Buffalo Board of Education after an expensive campaign, and now it's time for the dirty work. Chris Jacobs and his pro-charter school allies on the Buffalo Board of Education tried to pull a quickie and push through a charter school expansion proposal package while two opponents were absent. These must be passed by the end of September or they will be pushed back another year.

The hidden agenda was met with hostility by members who thought they were supposed to be discussing the budget like it said on the dance card. The naysayers on the school board don't seem to appreciate the urgency of the privatizers’ hostile takeover of the education system. The King Urban Life charter school, for example, has received dismal grades on standardized tests. The half-life of the charter school experiments already under way is rapidly approaching, and with the bloom off the rose, so to speak, Chris Jacobs and the red suspender crowd will have a tougher sell as time goes by. The democratic process of the school board seems to be getting in the way. Hmmm, what would our president do in this situation?

Privatizing Protection for Bloomberg

Speaking of privatization, it's interesting to note that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg now has a beefed-up private security detail. It seems that some of New York City's finest have not been shy about letting the mayor know how they feel about working without a contract for the last two years. Here the mayor is trying to be everywhere at once, promoting the GOP convention and what a great job George Bush has done for New York and these cops are running him down in public. Sheesh! We know that New Yorkers are pushy but come on! Don't be surprised if some of those nice folks in riot gear are wearing corporate logos as opposed to shields. Once we're able to privatize AND militarize our cops, we'll really be in the new era that our neocon visionaries dreamed of, and every precinct in this great nation will be like a mini Abu Ghraib. Breathtaking, isn't it? Nut Job: $100 mill for Richardson Complex Is Craaaazzzyyy!!! The state budget is in and guess what? One hundred million is going to a pork project for the State Dormitory Authority. It proves that our lawmakers in Albany are insane in the membrane. Meanwhile, the public schools get forty million, the cops win a Pyrrhic victory in a court case, and the firefighters get their Homeland Security bonus money stolen. The twin towers of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center are an architectural masterpiece that should probably be mothballed. Then again, some people think that they're haunted and should be torn down. One thing for certain is that the priorities of our politicians these days are scary – very scary!

If a dirtball, a sleazeball, a greaseball, a screwball, and a goofball play dodgeball with fireballs on a basketball court during baseball season, whose nuts will catch on fire first?

I can say two things in Swedish: “googoo gaga” and “shitboot.”

Rohypnol is known as the “date rape drug.” I’m no pharmacist, but I wonder if any other crimes have their own drug. If I walked into Walgreen’s or the right neighborhood, could I find the “steal-a-candy-bar drug,” the “insider-trading drug,” the “flamethrower-massacre drug,” the “toss-your-baby-in-the-trash drug” or the “mace-your-teacher drug”? Not that I’m planning any crimes, but I’d probably be tempted by the “drop-a-boulder-on-your-relatives drug,” as long as it was minty.

While trying to say “carpal tunnel syndrome,” my mother said something like “carnal tunnelvision syndrome,” which sounds a bit like nymphomania and just goes to show that if verbal ineptitude were the only prerequisite for the presidency, I’d be the First Son right now.

Unfortunate names I noticed in the graveyard:

Wurst

Failing

Hickey

Butts

Butman

Bingeman

Dickman

Sniffin

Here’s an intriguing offer I once heard in Cambridge from a panhandler with a brick: “For one dollar, you can hit me with this brick.”

I once saw a sign that said, “The brightest bacon for freedom.” Then I looked again and realized it said, “The brightest beacon for freedom.” This mistake inspired some unhealthy breakfast choices, along with these beacon-free book titles that can’t be found at Amazon.com: The Distant Bacon, Bacon of Hope: A Guide to Internal Truth, Bacon Street Girls: Worst Enemies/Best Friends, The Bacon at Alexandria, and The Ascended Masters Light the Way: Bacons of Ascension.

Would a pimp in the Popemobile or the pope in a pimpmobile feel more at home?

While discussing a friend’s wife — and by discussing I mean “venomously condemning” — I briefly tried to be diplomatic about my feelings, but what I ended up saying was that I’d like to “put her in a sack.” I hastily added that I’d like the sack to be on a nice, safe airplane headed to a clean, peaceful country, but that little disclaimer didn’t do much to disguise the implications. Once you’ve advocated for the put-her-in-a-sack method of conflict resolution, there just isn’t much room for interpretation.

How many John Donne poems rhyme “corpus collosum” with “ruptured scrotum”?

I thought there couldn’t be a worse euphemism for genocide than “ethnic cleansing,” but I’ve been proven horribly wrong by the term “humanitarian situation.”

In The Passion of the Christ, they beat the crap out of Jesus, and they beat the shit out of Jesus, and they beat the snot out of Jesus, and they beat the fuck out of Jesus, and they beat the stuffing out of Jesus, and they beat the ugly out of Jesus, and they beat the living daylights out of Jesus, and they beat the holy hell out of Jesus, but did they beat the bejeezus out of Jesus?

The words of the week:

10) Robo-lobster

9) Yutz

8) Giddy

7) Squeegee

6) Ape-poopy

5) Mama-yama

4) Absoschmuckinglutely

3) Biblical

2) Jackassitude

1) Spokes-fembot

The evilest sentence in the language: “Good luck to you in your future endeavors.”

Wordluster Mark Peters wants to hear your thoughts, jokes, and questions about language, including favorite words, memorable goofs, trenchant observations, and other word-ish material. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Open Water reportedly was made for about $179,000, shot on digital video, and may turn out to earn bigger box office bucks than that other inexpensive thriller, The Blair Witch Project. The story is based on real events. A husband and wife head to the Bahamas for a little rest and relaxation. They are high-energy go-getters, workaholics who enjoy each other’s company. The respite will recharge their psychic batteries. Emotionally, they are healthy. There’s a promise of no computers, but, well… you know go-getters. The couple joins a group on a scuba diving jaunt and after the coral reef swimming and fish watching is over, the charter boat crew forgets about them. They, Susan and Daniel, are left behind, bobbing like corks in the wide-open sea.

As simple as that is, that’s the movie. But like the very best of pure cinema, Open Water works on you like a jackhammer. It drags you in, plays with your fears, toys with your expectations, and delivers not only jolts, but also meaningful dialogue. Most of the film concentrates on the two lost souls and they’d better have something interesting to say to keep the audience alert. The filmmakers, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, real-life husband and wife, do the impossible. Because they are actually married, Kentis and Lau understand how couples talk. And when Susan and Daniel talk, what they say has the ring of truth. Tension, trepidation, blame, recrimination, relaxation, and humor are part of the package. I marveled at the idea that I was watching two people float in dangerous water for nearly an hour and was interested in who they were, what they had to say, and most importantly, their well being.

I also liked the fact that Kentis (who wrote, directed, edited, and co-shot the movie) and Lau (who produced and co-shot the movie) avoided fakery. Those are real sharks you are seeing. And I especially liked the fact that this is not a cheesy thrill-seeking film, with overwrought special effects and blood, blood, blood. The dread you feel is based on primal terror. Kentis’ editing is sublime. He builds fear like a master.

There’s a moment in Open Water when Susan and Daniel start to argue about who is at fault for their predicament. The dialogue is so real, that for a moment you forget they might be shark food. They are two married people having it out. Both Blanchard Ryan as Susan and Daniel Travis as Daniel are utterly believable in their roles.

Open Water is unerringly gripping. It feels real. And it’s smart. No dumbing down here. But perhaps even better, everything about this movie is dangerous.

Now on to The Door In The Floor. The movie is based on a novel by John Irving entitled A Widow For One Year. The film doesn’t burrow deeply into Irving’s satirically comic sensibilities, so what we see onscreen really doesn’t fully capture the notion that this is a comic novel. Of course, the rule is to review the movie, not the source material; therefore, the good news for audiences is that this is a first-rate film.

At first hearing, the subject matter doesn’t seem like fodder for laughter, even if it’s the knowing intellectual kind. Screenwriter-director Tod Williams captures, with less humor than the book, Irving’s compelling story of parents still recovering from the death of their two sons’ in an automobile accident five years before. The father, Ted Cole (a magnificent Jeff Bridges), is a children’s book writer and illustrator. He’s a pompous ass, a drunk, and an unrepentant womanizer. The mother, Marion (an outstanding Kim Basinger), has been reduced in the wake of her beloved sons’ deaths to being little more than a zonked out robotic form, a mother and wife in name only. She can barely be a parent to the four-year-old daughter she and Ted produced in a mistaken effort to replace the lost sons and help assuage their trauma.

The Door in The Floor takes place in Long Island’s tony Hamptons and confines itself to one doomed summer, during which Marion and Ted agree to a trial separation. A 16-year-old hopeful future writer named Eddie (a promising young actor named Jon Foster) arrives to work as Ted’s assistant. It quickly becomes clear to Eddie that Ted requires little more from him than driving the author to his next sexual conquest, which frees up a lot of time for Eddie to do things interns generally don’t do (unless it’s the presidential kind, I guess). The kid masturbates sniffing Mrs. Cole’s underwear.

Needless to say, he gets caught by the missus. There’s no retribution, but instead the older woman finds some joy in establishing a sexual relationship with the lad. The sex and the togetherness (not necessarily the same thing) are treated by writer-director Williams in a nonjudgmental way. Williams – whose first film was the very accomplished, semi-autobiographical, and little seen The Adventures of Sebastian Cole – has a real flair for visual and verbal punches. His ear for dialogue is pitch perfect. This is a movie about people who don’t often communicate, but when they do communicate, it’s with subtle jabs.

The film The Door in the Floor also doesn’t drip too much venom on the Hamptons the way Irving does in his novel. It concentrates on the people, but these are characters that hold your interest throughout. Williams has chosen to soften the blows, but his cast is so good, you occasionally want to see them break loose. In his way, Bridges understands what’s going on better than do the other cast members and sometimes better than Williams. He ratchets up the energy and you’re grateful for it, but overall this is still a fascinating exercise in marital disintegration. You feel the pain and anger of lives adrift.

As in Magnolia, Cruise has overthrown the good guy youth thing in Collateral, which is one of the best adult crime dramas to pop up this summer movie season. Director Michael Mann delivers a totally believable study in villainy as Cruise, playing a hit-man, stalks the gritty, noirish nighttime streets of Los Angeles, a cityscape that was made for this kind of film. He’s on assignment to kill a group of people connected to a federal investigation. Cruise hires a cab for the evening, at $600, and takes the driver, a very good Jamie Foxx, on the ride of his life. The movie focuses on the interplay between Cruise and Foxx and it works on both a thriller level and on an ethical level. It’s Cruise’s best acting performance and proves that it’s time for him to grow up. Does he really need to be TOM CRUISE, when he can be a better actor in character parts that are well written and superbly directed? I don’t think so. Collateral should be seen for a number of reasons.

Another should-see is Garden State, an intelligent and wonderfully unconventional movie about coming to terms with who you are and why you’re that way. Screenwriter-director Zach Braff also plays the primary male lead in this little independent film that delighted the folks at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The joke in Hollywood is that most actors really want to direct. Braff wanted to direct, fell into acting (he’s one of the ensemble players on the television series Scrubs), and now proves he really can direct.

Braff plays Andrew Largeman (a.k.a. Large) who’s been knocking around Los Angeles doing bit parts in movies. He suffers from multiple neuroses. He’s got the prescription drugs to prove it, and angst should be his middle name. After his emotionally distant father lets him know that his mother has died, Andrew returns to his New Jersey hometown for the funeral and ends up in a series of amusing odysseys and get-togethers with friends and rediscovers his reason for being. Occasionally, the movie meanders and some story threads go nowhere, but the film has terrific performances from Braff, Peter Sarsgaard as his stoner friend, and Natalie Portman as the ethereal (albeit available) girl of Andrew’s dreams. Garden State is sweet and honest and quirky.

Less successful is Valentin, an Argentinean movie about a precocious little boy who roams around 1960s Buenos Aires as if he owns the place. The kid’s name is Valentin and his family is fractured. His grandmother (Carmen Maura from Pedro Almodovar’s films) is raising him, but the child’s goal is to help the adults in his life, one of whom is his absent father, find romance. As a matchmaker, Valentin is both solemn and spunky, and he learns an important lesson, adulthood is a tough world. This is a movie about human nature that never quite understands that sometimes it’s good when children are seen and not heard. Valentin even narrates the film, but the narration isn’t very interesting and the dialogue never quite propels the story. This is more a character study than anything else. Screenwriter-director Alejandro Agresti seems to be retelling tales from his own life (he even plays Valentin’s father), but it’s not a very interesting life.

Markedly unsuccessful is Little Black Book, yet another Hollywood bubblehead comedy about a young woman who wants to work in television and does. There’s a very flat attempt at satire, as in Network, and when she goofs around with a guy’s PDA filled with data about his sexual conquests, the movie tumbles into a romantic comedy manhole, from which no one can climb out. The film’s only asset is its acting. The cast, which includes Kathy Bates, Holly Hunter, Ron Livingston, and Stephen Tobolowsky, is good, but the movie’s real joy comes from the panache of Brittany Murphy as the dreaming TV wannabe. Murphy has comedic star power. She’s comparable to those feisty screwball dames from the 1930s: Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy and Jean Arthur. I hope Murphy finds better scripts because audiences deserve to see her in better comedies. She’s a treasure.

Good Lord. I thought, “Is everyone in Arkansas related to the Blythes and the Clintons? Hard to believe that our ex-president can trace his lineage all the way back to the Irish kings and probably with a more accurate genealogy might be distantly related to Jesus.

“Elvis” leaves out nothing except his bowel movements as he relates his childhood memories of growing up poor and on the other side of the tracks. We learn early that his puberty was normal and the only time he suffered from concupiscence (horniness) was when he was under stress. Ah! To lead a stress-free life absolved from the rigors required of cold showers and morning doses of saltpeter. If only my own brothers had been as blessed as Clinton.

I nodded off several times through the first 200 pages, my head drooping occasionally to the open page and then rousing myself to read on until I finally reached the photo layout stuck between pages 282 to 283. Unfortunately, the photo pages do not count as reading material, and one must plunge ahead to page 602, where a determined reader is greeted with another seven pages of viewer delights. Try as I might, I could not continue this marathon read and could only digest several pages every few days. At one point, my eyes closed, and, when I awoke, I discovered that I had hit the meaty part.

The name Monica Lewinsky caught my eye, and I avidly read through the drool-stained pages. When I sleep, I sometimes sleep with my mouth open, unknowingly drooling. So I wiped the spit with a paper towel and, to my delight, found that it had only leaked through three pages and not one was blue. Kenneth Starr wouldn’t be able to accuse me of anything other than drooling copious amounts of saliva.

Reading about the Republican assault on the presidency from Clinton’s perspective is enlightening. I am afraid that Clinton is much too charitable to the pin-headed moralistic and self-righteous Kenneth Starr and company. He also gives former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich a bye in not explaining how Newt and the boys were attempting to dismantle our government and force a parliamentary form of government on the yokels outside the corridors of power.

From my perspective, the “Contract for America” failed because the smell of Clinton blood took precedence over the hard Republican swing to the right, causing the Republicans to lose sight of their agenda. Clinton observes that “Gingrich had proved to be a better politician than I was. He understood that he could nationalize a midterm election with the contract, with incessant attacks on the Democrats, and with the argument that all the conflicts and bitter partisanship in Washington the Republicans had generated must be the Democrats fault since we (the Democrats) controlled both Congress and the White House. …The nationalization of midterm elections was Newt Gingrich’s major contribution to modern electioneering.”

Kenneth Starr, meanwhile, continued his persecution of the Whitewater red herring and spending millions in taxpayer dollars until he unearthed a splotch of genetic material that a trip to the cleaners could have eradicated. Starr rallied his posse of rabid Republicans and, among the antipathy of a citizenry more in tune with Clinton than America’s new moralists, spent millions more on a failed impeachment. Hooray for sin! Forgiven but never forgotten.

Yes! It took most of the summer to finish reading this holy chronicle and, upon completion, I can affirmatively state that the next few months leading to our presidential election will allow us another look into the Machiavellian world of politics; but, after all, it is the only real soap opera available to our hard-pressed media.

The amazing thing about Clinton is that he rose as high as he did in an America that has often looked toward an aristocracy for guidance and assurance. Clinton proved to the American electorate that a good intelligent politician evincing a firm grasp of situational ethics and rising from the grassroots has a charisma unknown in the world of the country club set. Three hundred pages fewer of family life, relatives, friends, and love would have made it a more interesting, read but what the hell. We all love cornpone.

Chasing a Retail Fad With Gov’t $

Still, proponents of Bass Pro argue that the sheer scope of the Bass Pro/Aud project puts it above any competition. That, of course, is ridiculous, as is the notion that people will drive down in droves from southern Ontario to the Bass Pro in Buffalo when the company is already operating an outlet in suburban Toronto.

The superstore concept that Bass Pro presented is novel, but untested over time. Will it be as attractive to consumers ten years down the road? Probably not.

Also on the same front page of Business First was an article about how Republican Congressman Jack Quinn has vowed that the Bass Pro project will be his top priority in his final months in office. Don’t look now, but the editors of Business First might just be on to something.

Until very recently, industrial development agencies were forbidden from investing in retail operations. Retail jobs generally pay low wages and are unnecessary for government to support because retailers typically respond to demand. The question is how big is the market for outdoor gear and should government be in the business of stimulating competition in this market sector.

Intermodal Casino Pork

This critical question is not being asked and that doesn’t make any sense, unless you look at whom the project will benefit. As we’ve reported earlier, Bass Pro is also involved in a superstore/casino/resort in Las Vegas. It’s not hard to imagine the Bass Pro megalith in the Aud doubling as a downtown casino. How this project is eligible for federal monies under the heading of “intermodal transportation” is a credit to Jack Quinn’s creativity in carving out sculptures of spam from the Washington pork barrel. Too bad, Tony twiddled his thumbs while the $100 million in transportation funds that Quinn lined up dwindled down to the current figure of $34 million.

South towns Casino May Create Cattaraugus County Tax Shelter

The Seneca Gaming Compact acted as a springboard for a casino in the Southtowns, located near Salamanca. Of course, businesses built on Seneca tribal territory in the vicinity of this new casino would be exempt from New York State taxes. The creation of this tax-free zone, which includes the upscale resort area of Ellicottville, is being used as a rationale for a massive overhaul of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

If passed, the new CCIDA will become a tax break trough of unprecedented proportions.

Who Loses?

According to an article in The Buffalo News on a new proposal being considered by the Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency, “...municipalities and school districts will have to wait 15 years to receive full property tax revenues from new manufacturing, commercial, and tourist-related developments.”

The logic is simple: since the Salamanca casino will create all sorts of “tax free” spin-off businesses for the Seneca Tribal Council kingpins, the rest of Cattaraugas County business (or at least the politically connected ventures) deserve the same sort of “tax relief.”

Who Wins

This could all turn out to be big help for Casino Buffalo Cheerleader Carl Paladino, who now wants to build a new hotel in Ellicottville. By sheer coincidence, Paladino has lobbied the CCIDA to go through with the proposed changes.

If this latest “tax avoidance” mechanism is allowed to stand in Cattaraugus County, think of the sort of tax breaks could be generated by the creation of a casino in Erie County.

Joel Rose, co-chair of Citizens Against Gaming in Erie County, commented in an e-mail on the Cattaraugus deal: “If you're a small player, and the competition opens up across the street with tax-free sales, you take your lumps. But if you're a big player, one who finances many a political campaign, you just get the local taxpayers to chip in and cover you, while you go right on promoting the policies which lead to this mess in the first place. The sheer gall takes my breath away.” Buffalo is a community with a lot of problems. It suffers from an eroding tax base, the gross mismanagement of the Masiello administration, and a business culture that is dominated by a risk-averse banker with little or no clue about how to promote sustainable job growth in the region.

The litany of problems does not, by any means, end there. Another idiosyncrasy of our decadent political culture is the tendency to artificially stimulate competition through government handouts to businesses operating in struggling sectors of the economy. We’ve documented this many times in the past. Conservatives and liberals can agree that this sort of profligacy is out of control, and yet it continues to occur in Simpson-esque proportions.

The latest mega-project that The Buffalo News and others are promoting is the conversion of Memorial Auditorium into a Bass Pro Shop. The final price tag is not yet available but, when all public subsidies are combined, it would not be unrealistic to expect the grand total to be in excess of 100 million dollars.

And speaking about fish, well, something smells pretty fishy in Albany. Could that smelly fish wrapped in old newspapers be nothing other than the long-overdue state budget? Apparently, yes. As of August 13, the New York State Legislature finally approved the budget and has sent it on to the governor for his signature. He has already promised to veto portions of it.

So, what about the records? Well, for one thing, this year’s budget is the latest that any budget has been approved in the history of New York State. Not only that, this year marks the twentieth year in a row that New York State's budget has not been approved on time. According to State Senator Byron Brown (D-Buffalo), this year's budget has also set a national record in tardiness. Corina Eckl, fiscal affairs director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, confirmed New York State's status as a record breaker. "In any given year, you will have a handful of states miss their budget deadlines, but not perpetually year after year like New York."

Some people, such as Brown, fail to be impressed by the propensity that New York State has for breaking records. People who are not fans of perpetual late budgets see it as a bad joke played on the citizens of the state, not as a potential Olympic event, with the state’s fearless leaders standing on top of the medals stand, waiting for the gold to be draped around their necks. No, They see the bad joke as having started on April Fools Day, the deadline for the budget, when no budget was forthcoming. And now, you can add an element of bad luck to the trick. Instead of budget approval occurring on April Fools Day, it’s occurring very suspiciously on or around

Friday the thirteenth of August. Brown was so unimpressed with the late budget that he organized a rally, held on August 5 in front of the Mahoney State Office Building, to protest the process that New York State uses to generate a budget. That process, he said, is the "most dysfunctional in the nation."

Generating a state budget months late is not an Olympic event. But, if it were, what kind of sport would it be? According to Brown, it's a team sport, but most of the team isn't on the field. Three players, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Governor George Pataki, square off for the contest to make the budget. Their senator and assemblymember teammates sit on the bench, as much an audience as their irritated constituents to a frequently contentious match that has gone into overtime months ago. Apparently the role of bench warmer is not satisfactory to Brown. "Three men in a room does not work for New Yorkers. We must reform this process. We should not tolerate anything less... I am frustrated and embarrassed to be a part of a body that doesn't understand the impact that this (the late budget) has on people's lives."

Some of the people who feel the strongest impact on their lives are the state’s schoolchildren, said Buffalo Board of Education President Florence Johnson. The budget delays cost the Buffalo School District and other poorer upstate districts a "golden opportunity for long-range planning… budget cuts invade the classroom and dash the hopes and dreams of children.”

The record breaker also has an effect on not-for-profit organizations, with programs that depend on government grants for support. Brenda McDuffie of the Buffalo Urban League said, "The (late budget) causes great harm to a community that is already frail. We can't do it (run a program to assist young people having difficulty in school) when we have others who do not act responsibly."

Recently, Brown introduced legislation (S. 7665A) that would require state legislators to meet for at least three hours per day, including weekends and holidays, until a budget is passed. The governor would also be required to stay in Albany if the budget is not adopted by the April 1 deadline.

One of the signs held aloft at the August 5 rally was a wanted sign, depicting "Deadbeat Governor Pataki."

One can only imagine what sort of company would sign up politicians who break records for tardy budgets for lucrative product endorsements, much like they sign up Olympic gold medallists.

Menu:

Appetizers/Salads: Gumbo Lobster Sushi Roll Maui Roll * Goat Cheese and Soba Noodle Salad

Entrees: Pacific Seafood Cassoulet # Grilled Tenderloin with Raspberry Port Sauce

Dessert: * Table Side (interactive) Smores Roasted Banana and Rosemary Cheese Cake

Libations: Pinot Grigio, Mezzacorona, Italy

*- Pinot Noir, Robert Mondavi * - Best of Category # - Best of Show

The beaches are one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers go to the beach every summer to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Providing local jobs and generating millions of dollars to the local economy, coastal tourism is threatened by pollution that puts public health at risk. Sewage spills and urban runoff continue to contaminate many of our beaches with disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens. High bacteria levels, indicating the presence of human or animal waste, prompted 88 percent of the national closures and advisories in 2003.

“It is unfortunate that in the 21st century we still have to wonder if we will get sick from swimming in the water. Nationwide approximately 45% of our waters are still not clean enough to support basic uses such as fishing or swimming, that is unacceptable,” stated Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director, “New York needs to take steps to stop untreated sewage and control storm water run-off from contaminating into our waters.”

The two leading causes for beach closures in New York State are untreated sewage released into the water, which leads to high bacteria levels, and non-point source pollution, like storm water run-off. When rainwater runs off parking lots, highways, and rooftops it collects pollutants such as pesticides, motor oil, gasoline, and pet waste that contaminates our streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and oceans.

Thirty-six percent of all New York’s beach closures were a result of untreated sewage contaminating our waters. Specifically a problem for Erie County, which had 115 beach closures, mostly related to high bacteria levels. Monroe County recorded 32 beach closures, also due mostly to high bacteria levels. Sewage contamination was responsible for the majority of the 52 beach closures in Chautauqua County.

The report offers several reasons why New York closures jumped so drastically from 2002. First, there was an increase in the frequency and the number of beaches monitored in 2003 than in 2002. Second, due to inadequate back-up generators for sewage treatment plants, the August 2003 blackout caused many sewage treatment plants to release untreated sewage into our waterways, particularly impacting the New York City region. Finally, although the beach closures and public health advisories are increasing nationwide, the current administration is weakening water quality regulations and programs instead of strengthening them.

The current administration began working to undermine Clean Water Act protections for beach water the first day it took office and continues to issue new policies that undermine Clean Water Act programs that help keep beach water clean and safe for swimming. The administration also has declined to protect many wetlands and other waters that filter beach water sources, rolled back treatment requirements for sewage, allowed contaminated storm water from new development to pollute rivers, slashed federal funding for clean water programs, and delayed and derailed state efforts to clean up polluted waterways.

“With the Administration weakening water quality protection, CCE is calling on the New York State Legislature to protect our magnificent coastal beaches and local waterways, by enacting the Wetlands Protection Act (S4480/A07905),” said CCE program coordinator Brian Smith. Currently, thirty-three percent of beach closures in NYS are caused by storm water run-off. “Wetlands help to filter out pollutants found in storm water run-off, which results in less pollution going into our lakes, streams, estuaries, and oceans and leads to cleaner, safer, and open beaches for all New Yorkers,” Smith concluded.


(For the complete report, go to http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/titinx.asp.)

Citizens Campaign for the Environment is an 80,000 member, not-for-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization working for the protection of public health and the natural environment.
Checking In To Club Fed

Martha, when you move into Club Fed for your five-month stay, there are a few things that you should know. First, give the Bureau of Prisons enough time to plan your adventure. If you don't, you might serve your sentence in either a county jail or a federal detention center. I know from first-hand experience that county jails are bad entertainment. You'll feel bored and claustrophobic in a jail cells (cage), but you'll be spared the terror associated with being trapped in a stuck elevator or Camp Delta in Guantanamo.

Even in Danbury, you could find yourself sitting in a little cage. Some inmates, such as yours truly, start our sentences in the "Special Housing Unit," otherwise known as the SHU (pronounced "shoe") or "seg." I don't know how special you have to be to go to a "special housing unit." Apparently, I was very special because I went to the SHU twice during my three-month tenure at Danbury.

In the SHU, your fashion statement is bright orange, while anywhere else in the prison, you wear khaki. You spend 23 hours in a little cage and one hour in an outdoor pen. It's highly unlikely, however, that you'll spend much, if any, time there because media folks and paparazzi would swarm the prison gates if they found out that you had been consigned to the hole.

The Prison Camp on the Hill

Most likely, you will go to the minimum-security camp, up the hill from the medium-security federal correctional institution. Unlike the fenced-in FCI, the camp is open, though run down. It tends to leak during rain storms, causing a buildup of mold and mildew.

When you first arrive at the camp, your official "job title" will be "A & O" (Admissions and Orientation). You will be given work assignments that are matched to your talents, such as cleaning kitchen drains or sweeping sidewalks with a little broom.

Get a Job but Beware the Wildlife!

Once you're declared medically fit to work, you'll be assigned a job. You will work for seven hours per day for twelve cents an hour. Going to work is not optional, as I found out when I was sent to the SHU for refusing to work (see the article "Protest in Prison" in the June 10-24 Alt Press).

Work can be entertaining. Some of my companions on the ground maintenance crew reported being frightened by the sudden appearance of a deer. Every time they related the story, the deer grew in size and aggressiveness. Eventually, the enormous deer was described as "charging at people."

Keep in mind that all of your supervisors and, indeed nearly all of the prison staff, are also "correctional officers (COs)." They will have other titles, such as teacher, foreman, secretary, psychologist, or correctional counselor. They wear large and noisy sets of keys around their waists. Sometimes they'll try to assert their authority by stating the obvious: "You are an inmate!" or "You are in prison!" Try to resist the urge to say, "Thank you for sharing." Occasionally, staff members throw temper tantrums, which can be scary if they are wielding weed whackers. The re-enactments of these scenes also become embellished over time.

Your new boudoir

The place that you will call your bedroom will be a room with several bunk beds and lockers. Because you're over 50, you will sleep on a bottom bunk. My bed was a top bunk that faced a window and allowed me a stunning view of the sun rising over the hills.

When your roommates first meet you, they will ask many questions. My roommates wanted to know about my protest and if I planned to protest again. I was more than happy to tell them why I felt that the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation should be closed and investigated. Most of my friends had been convicted of drug-related offenses or of the vague charge called "conspiracy." Some of your new friends may even be called "kingpins." One of them is called "Sister." Yes, the government puts nuns in prison. Sister Ardeth Platte will be in Danbury until December 2005 for participating in a "plowshares action" at a nuclear missile silo in Colorado.

Of Needles, Hooks, and Books... Hobbies in Prison

In my room, we enjoyed reading and crocheting. People can mail paperback books to you. Craft supplies and sewing kits can be purchased from the commissary. It's possible to alter your clothing with your sewing kit but that's against the rules, so, um, don't get caught. Some inmates have more unusual hobbies. It was suspected that convicted Watergate crook G. Gordon Liddy wiretapped the warden's telephone during his "non-work" hours when he resided in the Danbury FCI in the 1970s.

What's for Dinner???

Don't expect much variety in your diet. You'll get a lot of (cluck, cluck) chicken: baked, fried, sauced, and turned into salad. Also, you'll eat eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Oh, and take a look at the words written on those little sugar packets. It seems that we got the stuff that the government confiscates when it seizes restaurants and other businesses. It must be a cost-cutting measure. On holidays, you get special food and cookouts.

The Goon Squad

Getting charged with a violation (referred to as an incident report or "shot") is a big production. A lieutenant, summoned from the FCI, calls to the CO's office and questions you. If the lieutenant feels it necessary or if the complaining party insists, you could be delivered to the SHU. Other times, you may be required to perform extra duty, such as garbage removal or goose poop cleanup.

Lieutenants are the goon squad. They are the ones who will bring drug-sniffing dogs into the camp or who will search for drugs in bathrooms and flowerbeds.

Laundry Police, Egg Confiscation, and Count

The COs have the task of counting the inmates, handing out the mail, enforcing the prohibition against visiting in other people's rooms, searching lockers for contraband, and babysitting the inmates' laundry and TV rooms. They also perform room inspections and can be quite diligent about checking for dust in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes, they say the funniest things. When a CO confiscated boiled eggs from one woman's locker, he asked, "Where's the chicken that laid those eggs?"

CO-wanna-bees probably go to training school picturing themselves as heroes in dramatic battles with unrepentant, violent felons. Furthest from their mind is the image of themselves being deputized as the "laundry police," constantly reminding people to remove clothing from the dryer or to put the iron back where it belongs.

What they do mostly, though, is to count inmates, day and night. They are not especially good at counting. If the count is off, the COs go into panic mode and fetch lieutenants from the FCI. Inmates are "government property," and the government doesn't like to misplace any of its property.

Walking in Circles

I remember seeing a movie quite some time ago called "The Confession." Set in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s, it was about the victim of ruthless interrogation by the secret police, who apparently saw the value of cardiovascular exercise and talk therapy. The man was ordered, "Walk! Confess to your crimes!"

In Danbury, you can walk or jog in circles around the track. Confessing to crimes while exercising is optional. You can play softball, bocce ball, or volleyball or take yoga classes... or you can sunbathe. If you are caught wearing an improvised "bikini" or "tank top," you will be ordered to change into "something more appropriate," and your fashion statement will be confiscated.

Checking Out of Cub Fed

Home confinement will be fun for you. Oh, and I've been told that, no, those monitoring devices don't short circuit in the shower. You may even set a fashion trend with your new ankle bracelet. And that register number that the U.S. Marshals assigned to you is yours forever.

The Pentagon spin masters have been desperate to contain this mess. Finding willing scapegoats has not been easy. The Army pushed out the highest- ranking officer that they cared to railroad, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, to take the fall, but she has been reluctant to fall on her commission and save George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld any embarrassment. She has been talking to anyone who will listen. She even has claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were operating inside the walls of the now sinister (and still operating) Abu Ghraib facility, assisting their American counterparts in the gentle art of persuasion. The general will not go quietly into the good night as the chief Torquemada in this disgusting Iraqi Inquisition. But the worst is yet to come.

Just three months ago, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib story in the pages of the New Yorker. The now notorious photos of detainees being forced naked onto human pyramids, leashed like dogs, and forced into various humiliating poses have been circulated across the globe. I doubt that there is a man, woman, or child from the Gobi desert to Tierra Del Fuego who hasn’t seen these pictures and felt nauseous in a dozens of different languages.

Army Sergeant Jeremy Sivits, the man responsible for the Rush Limbaugh-proclaimed "letting off of steam" offense of manufacturing a monkey pile of Iraqis, has been sentenced to one year in the slammer and was booted out of the army for that crime.

The military is court-martialing and punishing individual soldiers. The damage done to U.S. image abroad is wide, and will take years to fix, if repair is possible. The German television magazine, "Report Mainz, "has reported charges from the International Red Cross that the United States is holding 107 children in U.S.-administered detention centers, including Abu Ghraib. Red Cross representative Florian Westphal states that, “Between January and May of this year (2004), we’ve registered 107 children, during 19 visits in six different locations.”

The Red Cross report reveals testimony of the abuse of these children. U.S. Army Sergeant Samuel Provance told of one incident involving a 16 year old being soaked with water and smeared with cold mud and then returned to his prisoner father. One eye- witness, who was assigned to Abu Ghraib, told of interrogating officers getting their hands on a 15- to 16-year-old girl. She had been stripped half naked before some military police not under the spell of military intelligence stepped in and stopped it. U.S. News and World Report has revealed some 106 annexes to the Red Cross report. The files show prisoner riots; escapes, perhaps with help from Iraqi guards; shootings; corruption; rampant sexual misconduct; beatings; insect-infected food; and daily mortar attacks from nearby Iraqi insurgents. Last May, coalition intelligence officers estimated that between 70 to 90 percent of the Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake."

But Hersh, speaking at an ACLU meeting in San Francisco, broke another story that dwarfs these last examples. He says that he has seen videotapes of American occupation soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys. Hersh also claims that the Bush administration is holding onto the evidence tapes, refusing to release them. But stories have been released, concerning classified screenings of these tapes to U.S. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. These Members of Congress have been quoted as saying that the scenes on the evidence tapes are horrific indeed.

Hersh says of the rapes:” The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling, and the worse part is the soundtracks, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war.”

Al-Jazeera has also reported that the Bush administration has the tapes. Hersh went on to claim that there has been “…a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher.”

As disturbing as this story is, the worst part is trying to imagine who in the United States Army would do such an act of barbarity. I served on active duty, and I know that, to the average G.I., these acts are inconceivable. We would have shot out of hand anyone we caught committing such an act.

At the ACLU speech, Hersh elaborated further: “…a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and vice-president, by this administration anyway…”

This is not the first time that Hersh has uncovered evidence of serious wrongdoing. He broke the story of the Mi Lai massacre back in the sixties, and has investigated the CIA/Howard Hughes connection. During the Watergate scandal, he was a reporter for The New York Times. His reputation and credibility are beyond reproach. Hersh wouldn’t reveal something as shocking as this most-recent story without solid evidence.

As we go to press, “Report Mainz” is quoting Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson that the U.S. military is now imprisoning 58 Iraqis from the ages of 14 to 17. Johnson added that the children are held in Abu Ghraib and “Camp Bucca” for an average of six months.

Arkansas Indymedia has published a report in which a spokesman for the Department of Defense, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Yoswa, confirmed that the U.S. military is holding 58 juveniles. He denies, however, that any are female. But Iraqi television reporter Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz told the German paper Der Spiegel that he had seen “hundreds of children,” and he has confirmed there were young girls imprisoned. “She was beaten…I heard her call: ‘they have undressed me. They have poured water over me.'”

The report also conforms that children are routinely taken into custody during sweeps made by U.S. patrols. “Whole families” are arrested in the middle of the night. These families are taken before a “committee” that decides to release and who to detain. The highest-ranking member of this committee is a colonel.

The official reason being for detaining these kids is for “anti-occupation activities.” Details were not released.

(other sources for this story include UPI, USA Today, Big News Network, and the rawstory)

If only Kerry’s fictional former Swift Boat crew members could be located and persuaded to appear at the convention and tell stories of Lt. Kerry’s courage and devotion to duty. If only they would describe his leadership skills and fire. If only there was a story of Kerry saving a fellow soldier’s life!!

If only retired career military officers could be found to relate more stories of courage under fire, stories of sound judgment, and patriotism. If only they could be found to endorse Kerry’s nomination. If only there were a former member of the joint chiefs of staff who would stand up on the stage and endorse Kerry’s courage.

War hero status would play so well in the entire country. There is no one anywhere in the country who can criticize or otherwise find fault with courage under fire, devotion to duty, saving a fellow countryman, volunteering for combat, public service, and all the rest of it. Not even the most far left-leaning peace freak would refuse to board the John Kerry Swift Boat patrol.

Matter-of-fact war hero status would overwhelm the lefty fringe of the Democratic party, denying it any wedge to embarrass the convention. The infamous Chicago convention of 1968 would not be allowed to rear its ugly head. No small radical band of brothers to foul up the well-ordered convention script.

If only combat footage from actual swift boat patrols on the Mekong River and canals could be shown to the conventioneers and the folks looking on at home. One picture would be worth a thousand votes. Even the most right-wing, war-mongering, liberal-hating. beer-guzzling Bambi killer would have to hand it to Lt. Kerry. Unlike George W., not only did he talk the talk, he walked the walk. George's defense might come down to the fact that the Viet Cong never attacked Selma, Alabama, or wherever he was, while he was on duty.

An authentic war hero would put the macho back into a Democratic Party famous for limp-wristed hang wringing, whining, and crying. This Democratic presidential candidate has wasted gooks. George W. Bush has wasted nothing but time at best and buckets of American blood at worst.

Even better: locate another living Vietnam hero who had been horribly wounded in the war, wheel him out, and have him introduce the nominee. Not a dry eye in the house. And, of course, this fictional story would be over reported, exposed, analyzed, written about, and commented on by the thousands of print reporters, radio and television correspondents, and talking heads. Columnists would have a field day.

Even though 95 percent of the membership of the Democratic Party is against the war in Iraq and want U.S. troops removed immediately, Kerry’s war hero status will allow the platform committee to blow off an anti-war plank. Kerry knows that any seeming appeasement on his part will give his Republican opponents a weakness to exploit, thus driving the dwindling group of undecided voters into the Republican camp. Kerry knows that the Republicans have got Mr. and Mrs. average American family scared to death. Seeming to negotiate with terrorism would be the political kiss of death.

Ralph Nader, on the other hand, is not a war hero. He is a member of the lefty left green party whiners who don’t like red-blooded American cars and other Detroit-Iron deathmobiles. Even Ralph’s friends in the Republican Party who are getting him on the ballot in the swing voter states know that a Kerry War hero campaign will render Ralph’s anti-American activism obsolete. That precious and ever-dwindling supply of undecided voters will not fly to Ralph. Nor will those left-wing Democratic voters seething with Bush hatred.

This fictional story of war heroes would force Kerry’s former primary candidate rivals for the nomination to drop their left-wing agendas for the duration of the campaign and to be on board the Swift Boat with everybody else.

War hero status would put all of the power and influence into John Kerry’s hands. Bill and Hillary Clinton would be squeezed out. A Kerry win will destroy Hillary’s presidential ambitions. A Kerry loss will be blamed on the subversive activities engineered by Bill and Hillary to keep Hillary’s presidential ambitions alive for 2008. The 2008 primary then will become a political bloodbath as the party splits back into its old schisms, leaving a power void that the Clintons can rush to fill. A Massachusetts liberal, flip-flopping eastern intellectual war hero future commander-in-chief could campaign in downtown Crawford, Texas, with nothing to fear. He’s killed commies for Christ, just like their hero and professional non-soldier-soldier, JOHN WAYNE.

Terrorists around the globe would be put on notice that, even though the man from Crawford is gone, there is indeed a new sheriff in town, a sheriff who will not hesitate to put more notches on the presidential M-16. Alas for the Democrats... if only it were true.

When Bobo met Satan

You can always make fun of your own group, which is why I never miss an opportunity to lay the verbal smack down on men, Polacks, dorks, atheists, crackers, breeders, writers, jugglers, guys with beards, guys who use hair gel, sufferers of recurrent corneal erosion, people raised Catholic, and people with pet rats.

As an American, I also have a God-given right to make fun of English people. This right accrues to all Americans, whether we believe in an omnipotent deity or the tiny leprechaun that tells Ralph Wiggum to burn things. So I’m pleased to quote a Hindu saying that I found in The Dictionary of International Slurs. We can thank some creative Hindu person for thinking of it and Abraham A. Robackis for translating and collecting it.

Here it is: A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was the English.

Maybe I’m just looking ahead to the hot monkey love portion of this column, but the idea of a demon and a monkey getting Biblical makes me somewhat giddy. It also makes me wonder if I can find pictures of this unholy yet romantic union on the Internet… Best of all, this expression need not be limited to the motherfuckers of the mother country. Like all folk expressions, it can and should be altered to fit the occasion. For example:

A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was your face. A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was Terre Haute, Indiana. A demon took a monkey to wife—the result, by the grace of God, was Mark Peters. Burning ape-like romance

When given a choice between making whoopee, sinking the sausage, and doing the horizontal polka, I’d just as soon bury the ice pick... in my forehead. But if I had to choose between making love and making hot monkey love… I’d vote with my banana for the latter.

Thanks to Google, I now know that there are even more possibilities open to the romantically inclined. Depending on your mood, you could make red-hot monkey love, hot throbbing monkey love, or butt-naked hot monkey love. If hot sweet monkey love sounds a little too Sarah McLaughlin for you, then there’s always hot sweaty monkey sex.

If, like me, you’ve been settling for human love, self-love, and sheep love, these new possibilities feel like going from cave paintings to hi-def TV. And I’m even more impressed by these non-human versions: hot robot monkey sex and alien monkey love. Likewise, I’m sure that your mother will be impressed if, instead of closing your letters with a vanilla “All my love, Gwendolyn,” you close with style, using an expression your evolutionary predecessors would be proud of: All my hot buttered monkey love, Gwendolyn.

Fill-in-the-blank monkey

In addition to comparisons, such as He’s hunched over like a monkey fucking a football and proverbs, such as If you shave a monkey, she looks just like a human, monkey is often used like a suffix to describe just about anyone. Virtually any word can be grafted onto monkey to make humorous compliments, such as stud monkey, harmless insults, such as mogul monkey, and genuinely offensive insults, such as sand monkey and porch monkey.

Some of the most creative monkeys of this type have been spotted on television shows. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Xander Harris—after performing a love spell that went awry—feared becoming the cuddle monkey of every woman in town. In another episode, after playing the mystically controlled, bug-eating, syphilis-having fool one too many times, Xander swore he was done being everyone’s butt monkey. The Simpsons’ writers have used monkey in this way even more often. In various episodes, Moe calls a supermarket bag boy a sack monkey, Sideshow Bob calls a bellboy a brainless luggage monkey, Homer gets a job as a prank monkey, Krusty the Clown describes children as channel-hoppin’, Ritalin-poppin’ monkeys, and Groundskeeper Willie refers to the French as cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys.

Any versions of X + monkey you’d like to share? Monkeys of all species are encouraged to write in with their research and improvisations for use in a future column.

The show will feature more than 20 artists, who specialize in a wide variety of media, including sculpture; oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings; multimedia instillations; and photography. The exhibit title, “Project Underground Above,” highlights the presence of the creators that local media does not cover. The exhibit will become a permanent installation in city hall. In addition, the group is opening a new store at 611 Elmwood Avenue.

“These artists are the true roots and underground of Buffalo,” Brown said. “Most of these artists are not shown at (major galleries). They are ignored, but (they are) some of the best artists in Buffalo.”

Also to be featured at the Buffalo City Hall art opening will be some of the 50 local bands that the group works. These bands will also release a CD at New World Record. Some of the bands featured on the compilation will include Stemm, The Fracture, Fallout Shelter, Ad Hoc Theory, and more.

Amsterdam will host an after party at 8 p.m. for the public to come and enjoy the various antiques, art, and vintage clothing. The site is the former home of MIX.

Brown and Devlin founded A.R.M. on the eve of September 11, 2001. They said that they felt that “the world had become completely archaic, taking the artists away from their paints, musicians away from their songs, and writers away from their words.” A.R.M. wants to help Buffalo become ranked No. 1 in art destinations and to have, not just the United States, but the world pay attention.

The unique idea for the site on top of city hall actually came from Devlin, when she noticing the proposed closing of the Buffalo Animal Shelter, since one of the dogs that she and Brown own is a stray. They called City Hall and invited a few common council members to the various shows the group has had at Nietzsche’s and other venues to raise money for local organizations. Devlin said that the members were impressed with all of the artists and performances, noting that this is what the city needed. The members said for A.R.M. to check out the City Hall space. “Common Council President David Franczyk and his two legislative advisors, Michael Kuzma and Bob Sienkiewicz, really helped us out,” Brown said.

Brown had previously moved to New York City to work with Buffalo bands in Manhattan and make a film. He was doing fine, so why did he come back?

Brown chuckled and said that it was a weird story. One Thursday, he woke up in Manhattan, called a cab, went to JFK and was in Buffalo by noon. Just to go. That night he met his wife, and so the story goes.

He said that he hopes Buffalo as an artist’s destination will just be “meant to be.”

“I believe since moving back to Buffalo, what will save this city is music and art,” Brown said. “Tuesday will be insane, in a good way.”

As for Porter himself, he lived a smashingly enviable cosmopolitan life – Paris, London, New York City, and Los Angeles were his ports of call, and the sparkling and wonderfully honest new movie De-Lovely pays tribute to his world. The film, directed by Hollywood veteran Irwin Winkler and written by former Time magazine movie critic Jay Cocks, explores both Porter’s creative process as well as his private life. The movie doesn’t hesitate to examine the composer’s bisexuality, although in reality, Porter’s life was dominated by his gay side. As seen in the movie, his enjoyable pool parties were guy-oriented. The film has a PG-13 rating for sexual content, but truth-be-told; the straight sex is very chaste. I suspect the bedroom kiss between Porter and a sexy, shirtless, blond male ballet dancer concerned the ratings board. There is actually nothing in this movie that would offend anyone with a functioning brain, unless someone finds reality and its depiction offensive. Here’s what Porter himself said about his sexual identity: “I wanted every kind of love that was available, but I could never find them in the same person, or the same sex.”

The popular Porter moved effortlessly between a variety of worlds: straight and Gay, Art Deco Europe and robust America, well-dressed Broadway and money-machine Hollywood, show biz delis and high society dinners. He had a lifelong love affair with his wife, as well as lifelong love affairs without his wife. He thrived wherever he settled, enjoying a lifestyle that would have overwhelmed other men, and which was, in fact, illegal in some of the places that he lived. He was born in 1891 in Peru, Indiana. His father was a pharmacist and his grandfather was a true coal and timber baron. Porter’s family had money. The movie has a couple of weaknesses, one of which is that it doesn’t detail enough of Porter’s genesis as a composer. He actually began composing when he was ten years old. And it seems that writing music was a breeze for him. We want to know why. In 1937, at the height of his fame, he was riding at the home of a Countess in Locust Valley, New York when he fell off the horse. The animal also toppled and crushed both of the composer’s legs. Over the years, Porter endured dozens of operations and massive pain. Through it all, he wrote his magical songs. He thrived and survived. Before he died in 1964, he had written some of the most fabled and popular Broadway shows every crafted. De-Lovely exists as both a musical and a biography, and brings to the screen a worldly sophistication that is rare in today’s era of crass pop culture. Compare it, for example, to Night And Day, the 1946 biographical picture that stars Cary Grant as a very heterosexual Porter. De-Lovely not only accepts Porter’s duality, but also bases the movie on it. His clever and witty lyrics take on a delicious ambiguity once you realize they are not necessarily written about love with a woman.

Although married, in what most people would call a very modern marriage, it would seem, based on what happens in De-Lovely, that on many evenings Porter was free to do as he pleased. Yet, his wife, Linda Lee Porter, was obviously the love and solace of his life. For her part, she accepted him as he was. One night in Paris, they put their cards on the table. “You know then, that I have other interests,” he says. Linda replies, “Like men.” Porter replies, “Yes, men.” His wife’s response: “You like them more than I do. Nothing is cruel if it fulfills your promise.” Dialogue like this is rarely heard in American movies. There is a certain wistful nature to the couple’s relationship. The key for the filmmakers, especially when Linda is no longer enamored of the “lifestyle” but still loves her husband, is to make certain that the woman does not come across as one more bitter fag hag. To everyone’s credit, especially Ashley Judd’s, who superbly plays Mrs. Porter, she doesn’t.

As for the actor playing Porter, well, Kevin Kline is nothing less than terrific. In addition to his acting talents, Kline plays the piano, which allows for a lot of convincing time at the keyboard. The movie opens with an elderly Porter and a producer (Jonathan Pryce) watching a memory-filled rehearsal for a musical based on the composer’s life. Through flashbacks we take a tour of Porter’s world. Cole and Linda met in Paris at that time in the 1920s when expatriate Americans were creating a new kind of lifestyle. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were there, too, and Ernest Hemingway, and the movie features as the Porters’ best friends the famous American exile couple Sara and Gerald Murphy, who are the model for Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.

Having been born into money, Porter made a lot more and knew how to spend it, whether it was on parties in Venice, high-toned travel, or fabulous gifts. Linda’s sense of style matched her husband’s perfectly. The movie is a canvas of sleek style and glamorous fashions. The couple always looked freshly pressed, always seemed at ease, always had the last sophisticated word, even if beneath the surface there was a lot of drinking and a series of compromises. The cigarette smoking that would kill Linda was at first an expression of freedom, but at the end seems like a defense mechanism. The movie details how, before every show, Linda would give Cole a bejeweled cigarette case, something that symbolized the production and becomes an iconographic moment in their lives.

The film’s flashback structure allows the weakened Porter to revisit the joyful days of his life. De-Lovely is filled with Porter’s magnificent songs, and many of them are sung by contemporary singing stars, a smart device that blends in well with events on screen. We see and hear Natalie Cole, Robbie Williams, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, and Sheryl Crow take on Porter tunes. I thought Crow’s interpretation of “Begin The Beguine” was off-base, but you might consider that a quibble. The movie contains much more music than most musicals, but it is not a concert film because the songs illuminate the material. Watching the film, we are reminded how exhilarating the classic American songbook is. De-Lovely isn’t raw or edgy like the movie version of Chicago, but it’s as good. I hope moviegoers embrace it. In addition to the outstanding songs, the film is forthright in how it examines the relationship between Cole and Linda. Some might proclaim that they never found a completely, passionate, satisfying romance, but they would be wrong, proving they don’t understand the dynamics of the human condition and the myriad possibilities of complicated friendships.

De-Lovely does it right and delivers an emotional wallop. It gets into your head and under your skin. And with all of that glorious music, it should also dance into your heart.

As a public housing ‘expert’ I was recruited by UB planner Bob Shibley in 1993 to assist in writing your housing platform promising public housing reform. But BMHA Executive Sharon West has now leveraged an incredible ‘protective order’ for her in-house criminal Flynn, granted by her friend City Court Judge Ogden demanded by felony prosecutor McHale last summer, into a total ban of my entering BMHA offices at 300 Perry, whether or not Flynn is present. I was jailed in handcuffs by BMHA Security (& charged with contempt of court by McHale when released on $5000 bail 31 hours later) for talking to TV reporters about the importance of their reporting the scandal at BMHA-owned Marine Drive Apartments at a press conference called by US Attorney Battle in March on the 300 Perry parking lot.

Ogden denied altering the protective order from “stay 100 feet away from Flynn” (who I had not been close to in two years) to “stay away from BMHA property”, then recused herself from my case & disappeared. After repeated requests to Judges Ogden & Amodeo, Police Commissioner Diina & other top law enforcement officials to investigate the altered document, there is finally admission that Ogden’s clerk, after she denied it on the record in court, penciled-in the change resulting in my “felony arrest” (a transparent goal of DA Clark, who has relentlessly prosecuted my watchdog activities, when he assigned a “felony prosecutor” last summer to a case dismissed by Judge Murphy in September 2001, but appealed by Clark 8 months later, in May 2002).

I hold you heavily responsible for this travesty. Despite Flynn’s conviction for criminal tampering in 1994 by City Court Judge Hugh Scott (& ADA Lisa Rodwin), after terrorizing Kader Realty & calling Niagara Mohawk impersonating Kader to have office electricity shut off, you appointed him to two city positions. When I exposed Flynn’s new crime you did nothing, instead re-appointing a housing criminal to the BMHA Board, as the DA relentlessly prosecuted me for exposing Flynn’s crimes. Now a jury of Buffalo residents will squander their civic duty to watch an unscrupled prosecutor try to silence me in blatant perversion of DA Frank Clark’s mandate to prosecute public corruption & white collar crime.

Apparently that is of no concern to you, again proving validity of Buffalo’s “Worst Governed City” ranking when “Governing Journal” studied 35 cities in February 2000. Two weeks ago you told me you would speak to one of my attorneys to learn more about this latest unjust prosecution on behalf of your corrupt appointee.

If you have any concern about a city government which uses politically-appointed Criminal & sociopath to force me to leave Buffalo for my own safety, while urgently need reform of dramatically failed housing policy is unaddressed, you could still keep that promise & speak to Michael Kuzma, Esq. And, perhaps, urge Clark & Franczyk to end this travesty.

Urgently, Richard Kern, MSW; Housing Advocate

I’m not going to state too much about The Village, because like me, you deserve to see this movie cold, so don’t read too much about it – you needn’t ever worry that I’ll give away any ending points of any movie. I think The Village works well as a cautionary tale about community paranoia, and it also provides a few creep-out moments that will keep you on edge. In the very late 1890s, a group of people have gathered in rural Pennsylvania to participate in a form of communal living, not unlike Elbert Hubbard and his Roycrofters in our own bucolic East Aurora. Strange goings-on unnerve the villagers and after a nasty knifing, one of their own is sent to the far-off town to gather medicine to help the fellow whose been stabbed. The chosen one is a young blind woman. The movie offers chaste romance, and she is smitten with him. The film ending suspense arises from whether or not she will succeed in her quest.

The Village offers breathtakingly beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins, as well as a simple tale told with stark dialogue. To a person, the acting is magnificent. The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Cherry Jones, Adrien Brody, Joaquin Phoenix, Celia Weston, Michael Pitt, and as the blind girl, Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron. The Village unreels like a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, and it offers simple pleasures that grow every time you think about it.

The Manchurian Candidate is the stand-alone remake of the classic 1962 political thriller from director John Frankenheimer. All of the essential characters are back, albeit with different nuances, but the new film, directed by Jonathan Demme as if he knows he’s tampering with art, just doesn’t deliver the suspense and power of the first movie. Everything’s too reverential; too cautious. In the early version, brainwashing was a shocking tool to control American politics, and North Koreans were the villains. In the well-made but mechanical update, a microchip is implanted in the unsuspecting victims in order for a global corporation to dominate American politics. It’s all so boring and familiar. Instead of the Korean War, we’re wallowing in the Gulf War period. There’s still an assassination plot, a touch of romance, paranoid adversaries, and one of the most delicious female villains ever tossed onto a movie screen. Angela Lansbury was the power-mad mother in the original, but the always top-notch Meryl Streep matches her in venom and intensity. As for Denzel Washington’s military officer who smells a rat, …well, Mr. Washington doesn’t really breathe much fire into the part. He isn’t flippant enough or anti-establishment enough. He sort of bumbles into clues. Frank Sinatra on the other hand (in the first Manchurian Candidate) was edgy and sarcastic. You believed his dread. Liev Schreiber as the possible vice-president and potential assassin is no Laurence Harvey, and that’s a bad thing.

The Bourne Supremacy is cinematic proof that Hollywood may never run out of ideas for car chases and car crashes. Forget Robert Ludlum’s novel; the movie is nothing like it. This frenetic sequel to The Bourne Identity brings back Matt Damon as spy Jason Bourne (a.k.a. David Webb) who has amnesia and is on the run, but really just wants to be left alone. The film is one long demolition derby. Damon is called upon to do little more than shift gears. Joan Allen is the new CIA project boss who just wants him caught. She’s tough-as-nails, but after a while, with the endless jump cuts and constantly circling camera movements, you just want it all to end. The movie has few moments that last longer than a few seconds. The film’s only asset is the chance to see Moscow and Berlin as you’ve never seen them. Other than that, there’s no supremacy here.

Before Sunset is writer-director Richard Linklater’s sequel to his free-form 1995 romance Before Sunrise in which Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke talked and talked and talked and said nothing. Promising to meet nine years later, they do in this new film, and talk and talk and talk and still say nothing. Set in Paris, which looks delightful, the story is badly in need of dramatic tension. Movies like this are only as good as what’s being said. From my vantage point, not much is being said. Ms. Delpy has blossomed and brings a bit of substance to the film. Mr. Hawke hasn’t blossomed at all; in fact, he looks cadaverous and unhealthy.

I, Robot and Catwoman are two misfires that prove too many special effects slow down the tempo of a film, even an action movie. In both features, everything looks fake. Too many blue-screen FX moments. Neither film is strongly connected to its source material. In fact, I, Robot is only “suggested” by Isaac Asimov’s book. It has something to do with a cop in the future who thinks robots are killing people. Will Smith looks lost as the cop. Catwoman, with Halle Berry looking like a sado-masochistic leather fetish stripper as the title character, has none of the fun or fantasy of its Batman sire.

Napoleon Dynamite is a pathetic waste-of-time, a goofy failed comedy about an unattractive teenage nerd in Idaho. If you want to see an unattractive teenage nerd, just go watch that weird computer guy who was called Mr. Potato Head in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.” Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence

Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero.

Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs.

What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.”

Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero. Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs.

Joseph Morales last worked on September 17, 1999, at a Niagara Falls company. He left work with three herniated discs, occupational lung disease, and autoimmune complications. As he fights debilitating disease and pain, he also fights his former employer and an insurance company. And, as Mary Jeffords said, “You never win that fight.”

Morales, his wife, and five children now live on one-third to one-fourth his previous earnings and no benefits.

In 1995, a twenty-eight year old woman, working on a second job, fell as she was carrying a tray of glassware. The fall damaged discs in her back and injured her neck and her knees. She is still fighting to recover, and she is still fighting an insurance company. And as Mary Jeffords said, “You never win that fight.”

Welcome to the hell that is the New York State Workers Compensation System.

Origins of Workers’ Compensation

New York State established its first “workmen’s” compensation system in 1914. Prior to then, when a worker was injured on the job, the only recourse was to sue in courts. The courts routinely ruled that the employer bore no responsibility for a worker’s injury or death. Most infamously, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, were acquitted of all charges in the 1911 fire that killed 146 in a lower Manhattan tenement factory.

The rationale was often that workers accepted the responsibility for their own safety. If workers felt the job to be unsafe, they could protest or find other employment. Continuing on the job meant acceptance of all of the hazards and, therefore, all of the responsibility.

In 1914, New York State established the Workers’ Compensation Board. According to the board’s website, “The workers' compensation system guarantees workers injured on the job both medical care and weekly cash benefits, usually until they return to work. Returning injured workers to employment without risking their health or welfare is the main goal of the system.”

As we shall see, that is a lie. The system fails those who need it the most – injured workers – and profits those who victimize injured workers – insurance companies and the so-called independent medical examiners.

Profiting from Pain

The one group that does not profit from the workers’ compensation system are the injured workers. The maximum weekly rate, which has not changed since it was set in 1992, is $400. In 1992, the payment represented 66 percent of New York’s average weekly wage, and in 2004, it represents only 44 percent. The weekly minimum rate is $40 or 4.4 percent of the average weekly pay rate for New Yorkers.

A mere three percent of all injured workers on workers’ compensation receive the maximum. According to Denis Hughes, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, “many receive as little as one-sixth of their weekly wage, up to maximum of only $150. So that means that, one week, you could be making $900 a week. Get hurt on the job. And the next week, make $150.”

Some make a profit from the system through fraud. In 2002, the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board recovered $4.6 million in fraud. The board’s budget is roughly $167.6 million. The Business Council of New York asserts that workers compensation costs a little more than three percent of payroll, which would put the insurance premiums in the billions of dollars.

Fraud thus represents a very small fraction of the overall cost of the system. According to the insurance research firm Conning and Company, claimant fraud in 1999 was 1.9 percent of the total premiums paid, or about $480 million.

So who profits? The National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimated that the profit margins of various types of insurance and workers’ compensation carriers proved very profitable indeed. The average profit margin for homeowners insurance was a paltry 5.4 percent, and for auto insurance, it was slightly better at 5.5 percent.

For workers' compensation carriers, however, the profit margin soared to 14.3 percent. The Business Council of New York premiums could soar by 29 percent this year.

How so? The 29 percent increase is based on a recommendation made by the Compensation Insurance Ratings Board. The rating board is a nongovernmental agency assigned the power to recommend premium levels.

By no strange coincidence, the following companies have representatives on the rating board: Employers Insurance Fund of Wausau – A Mutual Company, Firemen’s Fund Insurance Company, Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, Royal Indemnity Company, Utica Mutual Insurance Company and the State Insurance Fund. Members of the board essentially recommended a premium increase for themselves.

California employers, on the other hand, received a seven percent cuts in their worker compensation premiums this year. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the California State Insurance Commissioner said that rates could be cut another 5.9 percent. Nothing like this occurred in New York.

The Role of “Professionals”

The insurance company lawyers and claim examiners, of course, do their employers' bidding throughout the process of determining disability under the law. This process can go on for years.

An “Independent” Medical Examination (IME) is an examination that insurance companies can demand after injured workers have been examined by their own physician. It is designed to be a check on the process. The most important check, however, is the one written to the physicians. It comes from the insurance company and typically ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 for each examination.

Insurance companies shop for favorable physicians to conduct IMEs, which injured workers are required to attend. Failure to keep an appointment can be cause for loss of benefits. Jeffords claims that Liberty Mutual Insurance gave her an incorrect address. Jeffords had also been sent to a psychiatrist who had lost his license for “conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, having false medical credentials, and Medicaid and Medicare fraud.” She has also been required to attend 31 other IMEs.

Another injured worker claimed that his entire examination was the photocopying of his driver’s license.

In addition to the skills as photocopyists, physicians conducting IMEs must also be skilled fiction writers. In 1996, Liberty Mutual argued that Jeffords was only moderately disabled. She requested a copy of the report and ended up receiving two copies. The reports were identical, except for the conclusion on page seven of each. In one report, her disability was labeled "total," and, in the other report, her disability was labeled "moderate.” The physician said that he had adjusted his opinion after a review of his notes.

After an IME, the insurance company can unilaterally reduce benefits according to the physician's report. This reduction does not require a hearing or prior notice. An injured worker can appeal such a reduction at his or her own expense. It can take between six weeks and six months to conduct a hearing and, win or lose, the worker must bear the cost.

The cost by itself can cause workers to accept the reduction, and insurance company claims examiners use that to their advantage. Liberty Mutual reduced Jeffords' home health care assistance and informed her that, if she appealed, the company would further reduce her benefits.

For Jeffords, this could become just one more battle in a seventeen-year contest of judgments and appeals.

Proposed Reforms

The Business Council of New York has high praise indeed for a bill introduced into the New York State Senate by Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) and Assemblymember Robin Shimminger (D-Kenmore). In fact, the Business Council calls the bill “common-sense reforms supported by New York’s business community.”

The bill does have many remarkable features. The first is the re-definition of the word permanent. The Oxford English Dictionary defines permanent as “continuing or designed to continue indefinitely without change; abiding, lasting, enduring; persistent.”

Under the Libous-Shimminger bill, permanent in New York State would last nine years and seven months, the new maximum length of time a worker could receive compensation for a “permanent” disability.

Rather than a re-definition, the Libous-Shimminger bill portends a major medical breakthrough. The New York State AFL-CIO asks if, perhaps, this isn’t a portent of the future: regeneration of severed limbs or the reconstitution of severely or permanently damaged nerve tissue. Or is this merely throwing injured workers on to the scrap heap?

The bill would further reduce benefits payments by subtracting pension benefits that an injured worker may be receiving and by reducing benefits by 50 cents for each Social Security Disability payment received.

Senator Guy Velella (R-Bronx) and Assemblymember Susan John (D-Monroe) submitted a second reform package. This bill proposes to increase the maximum benefits over the next three years to two-thirds of the average New York weekly wage. The amount would then be adjusted automatically.

The law would also grant workers the right to file personal injury lawsuits, a right that workers forgo in many instances when they file for workers compensation. This right would be limited to cases in which the injury or illness resulted from a serious or willful violation of the law.

To reduce the considerable financial advantage held by insurance companies and employers in the appeals process, the Workers’ Compensation Board could assess attorney fees against an insurer or employer loses an appeal.

This could have saved Jeffords a significant amount of money. She suffered eight separate injuries and Liberty Mutual appealed the determination of the severity of each injury a minimum of three times. Jeffords had to pay for legal representation for each hearing.

The union would be granted the right to protect their members’ interests by exercising a veto over the employer's choice of a workers' compensation insurance company. The union could use a company of its choosing.

In cases where the insurance company unilaterally suspends payment and medical coverage, workers would continue to receive medical treatment until the case is settled.

Finally, for workers who make substantially more than the average weekly wage, insurance companies would offer "earner protection" policies. Such policies would increase compensation payments to higher earning workers to two-thirds of their wage.

The New York State Legislature adjourned last month without acting on either bill. The legislature may act when it reconvenes later this month or in early August.

The intelligence committee could not have picked a better scapegoat. Its reputation suspect at any time, the CIA will be hard pressed to stop scrambling politicians from dragging out into the open the “company’s” history of assassinations, coup d'etats, drug running, and arms dealings for all to relive. And how can the agency possibly defend itself without compromising its security, operating methods, and perhaps even its field agents? It can’t. All that it can do is sit back and take the smear from the latest inside-the-beltway witch hunt.

Former Director George Tenant will soon begin to reap the whirlwind. At the same time, sniveling, groveling-for-the-publicity future members of the latest committee drag him through yet another crucible-type Salem witch trial. Of course, the administration's chorus of sick children will be there, pointing fingers and screaming them on.

Acting Director John McLaughlin held a press conference at CIA headquarters and declared that corrective measures have been taken. He lamely commented, “We could have done better.” He did not elaborate. The CIA’s budget is a secret, of course, although we know that the U.S. intelligence community spends about $40 billion a year. One would like to know at what, how, when, and where. But it’s a secret, of course.

And, of course, those in the administration who lied us into the war in Iraq, most notably President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and "I-had-my-own-super-tanker" Condi Rice, can follow suit. The collective bleating can now begin in earnest: The CIA lied to us; it’s not our responsibility; we acted on the information supplied to us; everything we said before the war is “INOPERABLE." (Richard Nixon and Ron Ziegler are smiling from wherever!) Joliet Jake Blues sums it up for all concerned: "IT WASN”T MY FAULT!!!"

And they are not to be outdone, expect perhaps, by the mainstream media, who led the cheers and fed us the lied to pile on the now hapless agency. I expect that The New York Times and Judith Miller will now begin editorials of their own disavowing this Mission Impossible joke.

The NeoCons and their right-wing fascist think tanks can breathe a sigh of relief as well. The collective outcry will cover their call to empire as well.

And of course, the American public will demand action. All of those pious, patriotic citizens who waved the flags, screamed for buckets of blood, called anyone who stopped to think this all might be a mistake traitors, appeasers, collaborators, and Frenchmen can now wipe out any guilt from their conscience. How could our own red, white, and blue spies have gotten it so wrong? At breakfast tables across the land, I can hear them now. The e-mails and "letters to the editor" (The New York Times!!} will now begin to pour in.

I imagine Ahmed Chalabi, now resting comfortably in his U. S.-taxpayer-supplied villa in downtown Baghdad, is laughing himself silly. He played a bunch of Jackass Americans Neocons for 38 million bucks or so. So the CIA trashed his office and took some stuff. So what? He’s waiting for the occupation to turn even worse so he can step in and collect the power that he feels is his due.

Next in line will no doubt be our own Tony Masiello. What better way to re-election than blaming all of Buffalo’s problems on poor information? He just might show up at the next intelligence committee meeting demanding action. Why not? Everyone else will.

There was no claim in the Senate’s report that any intelligence analyst was pressured into anything. The ten visits to Langley by Cheney were ignored or glossed over. The role of the Office of Special Plans was disavowed and overlooked. The stove piping of information directly into the White House was ignored. The nonsense of Ahmed Chalabi and his exile group setting up the administration has been forgotten as well.

Bush, true to form, said that he had not read the report. Perhaps Condi will read it to him later at Camp David.

But in the long run, the intelligence community just might have the last laugh. Its job is to collect information. Think what you might, the folks in the CIA are very good at it. They know where all of the bodies are buried, inside and outside of the beltway. Can anyone say ‘October Surprise?”

Alt: In terms of this new formula, when will they resolve this and will that impact the Buffalo schools? Because, essentially, even though they’re talking about New York City, isn’t this going to be expanded to cover all of the inner city areas in New York State?

Byron Brown: That’s a good question. It may, it may not. The Court of Appeals of New York State has imposed a July 30 deadline for the state through the legislature and the governor to take action. Now, if we don’t act by that July 30th deadline, the court could appoint a special master whose job it would be to determine how the under funding of the New York City schools would be addressed. It would be only the New York City schools that would be addressed. That is because those parents and those educational advocates in that community were the only ones who filed the lawsuit. What many of us in the State Legislature would like to see happen is that we address the under funding of school districts all across the state. If we do that and if we take action before July 30, then we could see millions more dollars for the Buffalo public schools. We could see more money for the public school systems in Niagara Falls, Grand Island, the City of Tonawanda, and many other districts across the state that are under funded.

Alt: Is the Legislature going to reconvene before July 31?

Byron Brown: Well, that’s the big question. That’s one of the reasons why all of your listeners should call the governor, the Senate leader, and the Assembly leader, to say that the legislature needs to be reconvened. Prior to the legislators' leaving Albany last week, a six-week budget extender was passed. That essentially means that the legislature does not have to return to Albany until after six weeks. I voted against that six-week budget extender because I thought it was improper. I thought that it was a further sign that we weren’t getting our job done, that we weren’t doing the work that we were supposed to do, and I thought it sent absolutely the wrong message to the citizens and residents and taxpayers of New York State.

Alt: Is this breaking down along partisan issues? The Republicans pushing one agenda and the Democrats pushing another?

Byron Brown: It’s somewhat partisan. Democrats, by and large, often push for more money for education. The Republicans generally don’t feel as much money is needed for education. There are some Republican who, like Democrats, are champions of education, though. So I don’t want to lump every single Republican into that category, but, by and large the leadership, the governor and the Senate leader, don’t seem to think that there’s as much money as required to address the under funding of school districts across the State. Now the interesting thing is that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Adequacy study, which was a study done by the top educational experts in the country, determined that 580 of the nearly 700 districts in New York State are not properly funded.

Alt: So it’s widespread and it’s not just focusing on urban school districts.

Byron Brown: No, it is very widespread. It’s rural and some suburban school districts for that matter that are under funded.

Alt: So if this master is appointed, and rumor has it that it could very well be Mario Cuomo, can't he create a global formula? Would he be limited to just New York City?

Byron Brown: He would be limited to focusing on the court decision, which is based solely on the needs of New York City schools. That would be absolutely disastrous for Buffalo and other school districts across the state that have proven to be under funded as well.

Alt: Wouldn’t that open up a whole plethora of lawsuits from Buffalo, from Rochester?

Byron Brown: That’s the belief. If this went forward with a special master only addressing the NYC funding issues, school districts that are under funded all across the state would probably bring their own suits. The effect of doing that would probably delay action, not only in New York City, but also for school districts across the state. It would be absolutely disastrous for the children of New York.

So, unless they resolve this in a global way, the result will be a long delay in getting any serious fiscal reform in the educational system. That’s what most people believe.

Following the cover scandal, the paper received what seemed like a gazillion phone calls. Ahmad apparently has received dozens of emails about writing for the paper. If anything good came from this, the response to the scandal made up for all the attention that we never got for the past thirteen and a half years. Many of the folks who called expressed support for Alt and its work but many others agreed with Ahmad. The recurring question is “what next?”

Many people want to know “what’s next” for Ahmad? Has he been fired or shot? Well, how do you fire free help? It was even more difficult to track him down after the infamous cover. But when press time came, Ahmad appeared, knowing that we didn’t have anyone else to do the covers. I surprised him when I asked him what he wanted on the cover. He almost surprised us when he replied, “Nothing.” I said almost because you can’t really be shocked after his last stunt. “Leave the cover blank,” he said. “If we have nothing to write and nobody reads what we write, then we should have nothing on the cover.”

I got his point; I agreed and, so there, you have it. The truth. Nothing, a perfect symbol for our paper and for dying journalism in Buffalo. After thirteen and half years of publishing, what’s next? I just wrote: Nothing.

To be honest, there’s nothing we can do. We could try being like Art Voice, but in my humble opinion, the AAN alternative press formula of faux-journalism sucks. For that matter, the whole group of AAN bubblegum alternative weeklies sucks (botox for everyone)! They are commercial self-censoring and corporate and do very little real investigate journalism. They never offered a real journalistic alternative to the mainstream. The real joke is that the few independently owned weeklies are either being eaten up by the very same media conglomerates that dominate the mainstream media or that are competing against them. An example of this is the duel in Rochester between The City Paper and the Gannett weekly The Insider.

Everyone we’ve spoken with tells us that they all read the same sections in Art Voice: Street Voice, News of the Weird, and What Has Happened (do they still have that section?). Art Voice doesn’t have a real readership. They have a viewer-ship. And while we’re not exactly sure what the statistics are on reading habits in this city, we do know that looking at pretty pictures is still fashionable and qualifies as a winning formula for expensive advertising. (Can you hear the jealousy in my voice?)

And then there is The Beast formula of puberty and bad politics. It offers the worst of all possible worlds: neither a readership nor a viewer-ship but just white-noise suburban pimply urban wanna-bees. But both The Beast and Art Voice have something we also don’t have: A Target Audience.

From the beginning, we thought that we were writing for readers, not viewers. We thought that certain pockets of the city would appreciate a paper that took the same stories as The Buffalo News and offered an alternative opinion. People have complained about Buffalo being a town with only one voice, and we set out to fix that. For instance, The Buffalo News did not do a good job in telling its readers about the millions of dollars that the federal government pumped into Buffalo to fight poverty and to rebuild the inner city, and how millions of those dollars are still unaccounted for. In any other country, Mayor Anthony Masiello would have been shot. But fortunately for him, The Buffalo News covers for him. The rest of the city fell asleep on the issue, and the few people who read our articles do not care. That is why journalism is dying; who cares? Just look into the stalls in the johns in city hall, and you will find Alt. It is all Political Porn. Alt is too dangerous to read at lunch. You could lose your political patronage job in city or county hall if you’re caught reading it. So what if America or Buffalo is becoming a media desert?

But we’ll take part of the blame and admit that we, in the past, did a poor job. As The Beast pointed out during its pre-emptive war against us, our paper was and is dense, difficult to read, and designed around text (bad design for the modern mind). That’s not a winning formula when you’re competing against bubble gum, beer, and ass.

All of our writers are local volunteers. So we’re going to do the best that we can from here on. And to prove that we can learn from our mistakes, we’re going to wipe the slate clean and start Alt Press all over again. Ahmad’s blank cover design is the appropriate statement.

ALT IS BORN AGAIN AND SEES THE LIGHT OF THE NEW JOURNALISM!

We understand that sex and Mexican puppies sell. If a call for writers worked for Ahmad, then maybe a call for nude models will work for us. We’re looking for some women to show it all in front of the camera. To be fair, and since we’re an alternative paper, we should probably invite a few men to come and pose, too. Let it hang, boys. And as a note to Paul Fallon, Buffalo’s only political nudist, you’re welcome, too, big boy. Masiello, we’ve already exposed you concerning the HUD scandal. We may as well expose the rest of you. Come on down.

Fear and violence seem to do the trick, too. We’d like a few African-American volunteers to arm themselves with pads, pencils, cameras, and an AK-47 and head over to Buffalo’s east side. Adventure is guaranteed. Safety isn’t.

Speaking of all that, racism is always a hot spot. You can’t get more racist than Buffalo. Well, you can if you work at it. So here’s our promise: When the next black man gets a beat down by the police, we’ll be there with video cam and everything. That should satisfy the racist appetite. But the next time that city hall hustles the inner city for a cool million, we’ll leave that one alone. Nobody reads that. Well, how about the time that the Buffalo fire department leaves the city unprotected. Who cares? Just burn, baby, burn.

Hmmmm... what else? General local media crap? Well, hell, we gave you the issue on the Sewer Authority, didn’t we?

Oh, I know I’m whining! I know I’m leaving the door wide open for even more criticism.

Well, we said all that to say absolutely nothing. But we don’t regret it. And while we’re at it, thanks to all of the people who wished us to go away (wish granted?). Thanks to The Beast for opening our eyes to the truth. Thanks to Art Voice for... um... the street festivals. Thanks to the political bozo twins, Joel Giambra and Too Tall Tony Masiello, for giving us a warranted source for our rage. Thanks to Buffalo for being so economically depressed. Continous failure is guaranteed, and gray is not just another color; it is a way of life. We couldn’t have done this alone. (Sniffle. Sniffle.)

P.S. No doubt after this, The Beast will retaliate. They love attention. They’ll probably even move some of those boobie ads to the front cover. If they do, we’ll sue!!! That was our idea!!!! We don’t expect a response from Art Voice. After all of these years, Jamie doesn’t even read Alt. (Boo Hoo.)

P.P.S. For free pot, call

Robert Moses, the creator of the great public authority tax loophole, made sure that one of the authorities that he controlled had a luxurious yacht to be at his beck and call, 24/7. What perks might the control board create with borrowed money for Buffalo's savior, Andy Rudnick, we wonder? Erie County Budget Imitates State Budget: Manana

It all started with Erie County Legislator Al DeBenedetti's interview featured in the last edition of Alt, so perhaps we're partly to blame for Erie County's failure to produce a budget.

Al accused the Giambra administration of presenting a phony budget. He said that the budget that the Erie County Legislature was permitted to see depends on hundreds of early retirements that we know will not happen. Therefore the county executive is knowingly presenting a false picture of the county's finances.

After that story aired, a special hearing on the budget was convened. Representatives of the Giambra administration appeared before the legislature with a secret weapon: PowerPoint.

The Democrats, however, had their deflector shields up. They refused to be mesmerized by the horror story of runaway Medicaid costs. So the County Exec's team took its fine Microsoft product elsewhere. The false information on early retirements never came up. The failure to respect the power of PowerPoint made it personal, so personal that the budget thingy has been postponed until September, so that everyone can just chill out. Maybe by that time, both branches can agree to watch some Macromedia Flash presentations. God forbid government provides a plain old spreadsheet to anybody.

Artvoice Ignores Bass Pro Gambling Link Artvoice recently featured a cover article about Seneca opposition leader, Bobby Jones. Jones and his political party, Senecas for Justice and Preservation, have been given short shrift by The Buffalo News, which managed to run a six-part series on issues confronting the Seneca Nation without so much as mentioning Jones or his many criticisms of the Seneca Tribal Council.

The Council has pursued casino gambling at the expense of core issues of sovereignty, most notably tribal land claims cases. Additionally, New York State's attempt to tax sales to non-Native Americans could shape up to be the main issue in this fall's tribal elections. And, while many consider Mr. Jones to be an outsider, he has been successful in putting pressure on the Tribal Council to be held accountable for its cozy relationship with Gov. George Pataki and the Niagara Falls Seneca Casino kingpin, Mickey Brown.

While the Artvoice article did a good job of describing the numerous legal options available to the Seneca Nation and outlining general strategies of the SJP, it failed to mention an important issue of some concern to the City of Buffalo, namely, the very real possibility that the city's pending sweetheart deal with Bass Pro shops may represent a Trojan horse for bringing a Native American casino into the Aud. You don't have to believe allegations made to this effect coming from people such as Jones; all you have to do is go to the company's website to discover the fact that Bass Pro does indeed have close ties to the gaming industry and is currently constructing a Las Vegas Pro shop/casino/hotel. According to www.basspro.com, “The hotel and casino will also be themed around hunting and fishing traditions and all will be connected by a common entry.”

How's that for seamless?

Is it possible that Bass Pro would consider a similar arrangement in the Aud? Certainly, with people such as Masiello so enthusiastic about providing Bass Pro with millions of dollars of taxpayer support, one can be excused for expecting another shoe to drop.

What's so disconcerting about this is that Buffalo Sabres managing partner and Artvoice supporter Larry Quinn is a big proponent of Bass Pro coming to Buffalo. What's the thought process here? Are we making Delaware North happy? Do Sabre fans really want to share a parking lot with a casino? Will Sabre fans lose money at the casino, only to wind up listening to the hockey game on the radio while driving home?

In terms of economics, at what point do all of these new gambling “opportunities” in Western New York begin to make a real dent in discretionary income? It's a social experiment, and, if it turns out to have a negative impact, there won't be anything that residents can do about it.

If Bass Pro isn't interested in developing a casino in the Aud, why are they being fed so much government money? When Bass Pro competitor Gander Mountain opened its doors, it did so on its own dime. Is it government's job now to punish them by subsidizing a competitor? Regular Alt readers should know the answer to that question.

The term “goo goo” is ordinarily paired with “gaa gaa” as onomatopoetic baby talk. That’s how the powers be treat us, like the ignorant crybabies that we are. The term “goo goo,” however, was also a term of derision for New York State reformers who naively tried to free the state from the corruption of Tammany Hall and the freewheeling business community, which created what was known as the shame of the cities.

The Goo Goo Dolls are very adept at expressing the infantile impulses of corporate rock culture. They can hardly be accused of being advocates of good government, however.

Its corporate overseers keep the band, like any other MTV generation group, on a tight leash. Its longtime manager, Artie Kwitchoff, is now a regional player in the Clear Channel Corporation’s bid to control bookings at local clubs, such as Nietzsche’s and the Mohawk Place.

While bassist Robbie Takac ruffled some feathers by holding concert performances at his recording studio during the Allentown Art Festival, that’s about as deep into local political issues as the band has been willing to go. In terms of the national scene we haven’t really heard a peep out of the Goo’s since they appeared in a 9-11 tribute concert. The grieving process has been cynically manipulated by the Bush administration to great effect. Thank you, Goo Goo Dolls, love Dick Cheney.

Who really cares what a bunch of musicians think about politics, anyway? Of course, the Dixie Chicks had to run a gauntlet of right-wing talking heads asking this very same question after singer Natalie Manes criticized President George W. Bush and his war on Iraq. But we can’t expect that kind of feistiness from Johnny Goo with his store-bought muscles. Perhaps a better question to ask is, which musicians would risk their careers by speaking out against the emerging authoritarian hegemony in this country?

Certainly not the Goo Goo Dolls. Not on a national scale and not on a local level, Allentown Association aside. Their July 4 free concert in front of Buffalo’s City Hall was a good representation of their disengagement from pressing political issues. Instead of addressing the complete takeover of the city’s democratically elected government by the Control Board, the band lived up to their “doll” moniker by jumping around onstage like a couple of windup dolls on speed.

The growing number of free summer concert series may bring residents together in a local public space but they certainly have not had the effect of raising political consciousness. In fact, events such as the Goo Goo Dolls concert/Warner Brothers DVD filming have more in common with the bread and circuses of Rome than with, say, Paul Robeson’s 1949 concert in Peekskill, N.Y., where concertgoers faced down the Ku Klux Klan.

Jeff Meirs! Where Are You? We Need You Now! The unexpected deluge of hard rain that threatened to spoil the Goos’ homecoming is now being repackaged as local myth. Building on the mythology of hearty Bills fans supporting their club in all sorts of weather, the ill-advised decision to “go on with the show” is being hailed as a “watershed” concert experience.

Enter Buffalo News rock critic Jeff Meirs. Jeff, a local musician of some note himself, penned a couple of articles documenting the heroism of the day in a bas-relief of our boys in the band. He didn’t really mention that fellow Buffalonian musician Ani DiFranco, her band, and their fans braved the same conditions. This was the Goo’s hour to shine. We wouldn’t want to put the spotlight on yet another female who is highly outspoken in her criticism of the Bush administration and is a rebel against the “Hit Men” of the music industry.

For some people, the spectacle of Mother Nature in Buffalo blowing apart the carefully staged event wasn’t a tribute to our heartiness, as folks such as Jeff would have fans believe. For these people it was karma. Karma for the suburban white noise that comes into the city for sinnin’ and then leaves. Karma for the political caste system that had hoped to create a postcard image of major city at play, when, in reality, it should have pushed Tony Masiello out there to give a violin performance as our democratic form of government goes down in flames. And, of course, karma for the quasi-governmental Buffalo Place, which saw its vendors take a bath (or a shower, in this case) while the GOP-friendly Park Lane siphoned most their customers off into the golden ballroom of the Statler Towers.

In all likelihood, the Goo Goo Dolls will end up packaging a product that relies on the Jeff Meirs myth, with plenty of Murphy’s Law moments thrown in for good measure. Speaking from experience, losers can relate to the idea that anything that can go wrong will. They can idolize those who find a silver (or better yet, golden) lining in a monsoon. They can trade stories about their brush with greatness as their city is engulfed in red ink.

Why give a voice to our desire to fight back, when you can fill their heads with dreams of stardom? Repeat after me: goo goo, gaa, gaa, NOT gabba, gabba, hey!

Today’s Menu

Soups and Sides: * New England Clam Chowder Onion Rings

Specialty Sandwiches and Salads: Cheddar Bacon BBQ Burger * Chicken Souvlaki

Beverages: # Root Beer Milk Shake Stewart’s Root Beer

* - Best of Category # - Best of Show

ABOUT BILL BROWN:
Bill Brown is an award-winning filmmaker who has been described by Brian Frye in Cashiers
du Cinémart as "a punk-rock version of Ross McElwee." His films have screened on the Sundance Channel and at nearly every festival on the planet. He has received both Rockefeller and Creative Capital grants, and in November 2003 the Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of his work. He's
also the creator and author of the 'zine Dream Whip.

ABOUT ROGER BEEBE:
Roger Beebe is a professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Florida. Film Threat calls him "an artist with a strong visual and musical sensibility" and the Wilmington Encore raves that "Beebe's work is goofy, startling, and important." He has screened his films around the globe at such venues as McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square and at numerous festivals including NY Underground and the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

TOUR DATES:
Aug. 1, Minneapolis, MN
Aug. 2, Madison, WI
Aug. 3, Milwaukee, WI
Aug. 4, Chicago, IL
Aug. 6, Cleveland, OH
Aug. 8, Windsor, ON
Aug. 9, Buffalo, NY
Aug. 10, Pittsburgh, PA
Aug. 11, Columbus, OH
Aug. 12, Bloomington, IN
Aug. 13, Chicago, IL
At 4:00 AM on Saturday morning I called 911 to report a very loud and violent domestic argument between 5 individuals occurring on Grant Street near Delevan. I waited about 10 minutes before making the call, hoping they would just decide to move inside or quiet down, neither of which occurred. During this argument I heard several threats of stabbing, shooting, and even killing each other which I relayed to the 911 operator. The 911 operator indicated that they had already received several other calls about it and were "on there way". The argument continued until 4:45 AM when one of the groups drove away. No police officer ever arrived.

When the city of Buffalo announced that they were changing to 1 Officer patrol cars, they gave better response time and visibility as one of the major advantages. How can there be any justification for taking more than 1 hour to respond to a call, or never responding at all, when there are threats of physical violence. Why are there so many murders, shooting and stabbings in the city? When people are given that long for tempers to escalate and opportunity to obtain a weapon, how could it not happen! Where could all of the police officers possibly have been for that long that no one could respond and calm this situation?

We got lucky this time that cooler heads prevailed and this group of individuals separated before violence did occur. This could have been a lot worse. Response time to any 911 call of threats and violence needs to be minutes not hours. It should not matter where the call is coming from, who makes the call, or who may be involved. There is no time to wait for several other police cars to be available or in the area. The only way to stop violence is to respond quickly before it gets out of control.


Mr. Bailey
When it was just “bidness”, whether a sports team or an oil company, few suffered for his ineptness and ignorance but those who chose to do so. Now that he’s the President we are ALL paying for his lack of ability and intellect. In fact, the entire world is suffering irreparable damage from his appointment as head puppet of the neo-con fascists running the government from behind his smirk and VP Cheney’s grimace. Our children are being killed on a daily basis and we are spending upwards of FIVE BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH for his Iraqi fiasco alone, and the sad thing is we let it happen.
When a country with access to information at the level Americans have at their disposal from cable TV and the internet to the multitude of independent and alternative press sources, allows the policies of this administration to ravage the environment, rescind rights and alienate the rest of the civil (and un-) world to continue unchallenged, it shows a distinct disregard for the responsibilities of a democratic society too involved in the latest “Friends” episode or what the next “must have” media-induced fad item is going to be and how they’re going to pay for it. To put it bluntly: YOU DESERVE THIS.
As abhorrent as this administration is, you obesely overweight, slovenly, selfish, lazy, self-indulgent, materialistic, brain-dead, responsibility shirking, little consumermaggots are the real problem with America because you sit back on your well-padded butts in your gas-guzzling Selfishly Useless Vehicles and allow this to happen even though you know better. And until you get up off your fat asses and bring this administration to justice for the crimes it’s committing in your name with your tax dollars, YOU DESERVE EVERY 9/11 THE WORLD THROWS AT YOU. And none of us who saw this coming will shed a single tear for your loss. It’s time for you to take responsibility for what America, YOUR AMERICA has become. Whether you do or not will determine both the course of history and your personal worth from this November on. WAKE-UP. REGISTER. VOTE.
“We’ve given the production an entirely new flavor,” says Victoria Chatfield, executive director of Colloquial Theater. “There’s more intellectual thought behind the kitsch. Our version has the appeal of the original – but there’s an actual social statement to be made.”

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show runs July 2nd through 10th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM at the Flickinger Performing Arts Center (at the Nichols School). Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors. A prop kit is included with each ticket purchase – outside props will not be allowed in the theater. Audience participation is encouraged.

Now entering its third season, Colloquial Theater is completely managed by students under the age of twenty-one. The company strives to generate new interest for the arts and provide opportunities for upcoming thespians, designers, and arts administrators.
Of course, notoriety sells and despite the disappointing numbers of Blair’s book, it's pretty much assured that he will outsell Mr. Light. While we’d all like to see hard work rewarded, life isn’t fair. Light’s work is pretty much the literal opposite of “Burning Down My Master’s House,” and that may be one of its biggest problems to those who are politically opposed to the editorial direction The Buffalo News has taken.

However, Light’s scrupulous adherence to the dictates of objective reporting style deserves a considered analysis. Light combines a brief history of the newspaper itself with what, in later chapters, becomes a personal accounting of his time with The News. While someone unfamiliar with Buffalo and its newspaper might find the history interesting, it seems to me that in detailing his own personal stories, Light and his readers would have been better served by a separate memoir.

In writing their own stories, newspaper reporters may take advantage of this unfamiliar freedom to reveal deeply personal narratives as in Pete Hamill’s “A Drinking Life,” or they may attempt to give their readers a front row seat in the corridors of power as in “The Times of My life and My Life With the Times,” by Max Frankel, but Light is perhaps too self-effacing, and diplomatic to reveal enough of himself to carry this book as a personal narrative. At the same time he is too much the company man to reveal the inner workings of the wheelhouse.

On the personal side, both Light’s generation, and certainly, the culture of the Buffalo News encourage a taciturn approach. Many of his forebears at The News that are portrayed here also possess exteriors of leather. Still, Light’s tightly controlled, “just the facts ma’am delivery” sometimes obscures his characters’ humanity. After recounting the tale of Managing Editor Paul Neville’s untimely death at age forty nine, and Light’s own promotion as a result, we’re introduced to Light’s staff. Four paragraphs after his arrival in Light’s narrative, and after thirty years on the job at The News, a key assistant, Foster Spencer, is dead. When News editor Bill Malley comes on to the scene in the next paragraph, you want to warn him. Sure enough, he dies in a car crash four paragraphs later.

It’s not that Light doesn’t care about these people. He praises their work as he does with that of most of his colleagues and therein lies another problem. Light even takes time to acknowledge a pack mule like Marcia Harasack who we’re told was a, “…very capable part-time assistant.” The point is that the book is more of a farewell to the troops than a personal memoir. Which brings us to conclude that this is a book with a very specific audience.

This book is clearly intended for the longtime Buffalo News reader and Light makes no attempt to vary the writing style he has employed during his lengthy career there. Many people who grew up reading The News will enjoy this book. The chapters dealing with the early history of the paper are especially interesting. However, a book about The Buffalo News could certainly be written that would appeal to a much wider audience.

For those who want the lowdown on political influence and the shaping of public opinion, Light offers very few modern examples. True, there are some behind-the-scenes details such as when Warren Buffett faced down Courier Express Attorney Fredrick Furth in court, but you can read about that and other Buffett stories in greater detail in biographies of Buffett by Andrew Kilpatrick and Roger Lowenstein's “Warren Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist,” (which I prefer).

Stanford Lipsy's elite “Group of Eighteen”- the power brokers who have had the greatest influence on Buffalo's planning and policy in the last quarter century– make an almost comic appearance on page 222 and after a breezy synopsis, promptly disappear.

Perhaps, the most telling vignette to me was in an exchange Light had with the late Kate Robinson Butler when she served as the Publisher of The News. She demanded that Mr. Light pull a planned serialization of “My Life With Jacqueline Kennedy” because it was written by Jackie's secretary. Light tells us, “...she (Butler) would never want any of her hired help to write a book about her private affairs and that it was reprehensible to publish such a book.”

As the former Managing Editor of The Buffalo News, Light was among the most knowledgeable of the hired help. In this book though, he hasn't revealed any “private affairs” concerning the brokering of power by current Publisher Stanford Lipsey and heirs apparent Warren Colville, and Gerald Goldberg. “Burning Down My Master's House” this ain't. Then again, Jayson Blair didn't light any great bonfire of knowledge about the powers that be, either.

This book is a good contribution for the time capsule The News seems to be creating for itself in this, its 125th year. Whether The News or Buffalo will exist for another one hundred and twenty five years will depend largely on whether The News chooses to maintain its current, destructive and reactionary editorial course or not - after all, TV news propaganda is far more cost effective.

Critics are concerned, however that micromanagement of the bonding is the real reason the Control Board and its leader, M&T Bank CEO Bob Wilmers are interested in the Construction Board.

Who Controls What?

A document made available to Alt by Nancy Brock, an M&T bank employee and public relations person for the Control Board showed that as of January 21st of this year, the Construction Board and several other City agencies are “covered organizations.”

The document pointed out that although these various agencies were exempt from Control Board oversight, the Control Board retained the right to “…terminate any such exemption or exemptions…”

If the Control board deemed that any of these covered organizations did in fact, “materially affect the ability of the City to adopt and maintain a budget,” those organizations could be subjected to their oversight.

For some reason, the Buffalo Sewer Authority is still exempt from Control Board oversight. Alt asked Ms. Brock why the Control Board had maintained the exemption of the Buffalo Sewer Authority, especially in light of its serious maintenance problems (see “Smell of a Dying City on opposite page), Ms. Brock sent us a recent Control Board document which stated that, “It was found that the Buffalo Sewer Authority does not materially affect the ability of the City to adopt or maintain a balanced budget.”

In addition, the note read that, “The Sewer Authority has been cooperating with the BFSA in keeping us informed about budgetary issues.” While it’s nice to know that the Control Board is on friendly terms with the Sewer Authority, the simple fact of the matter is that the BSA does have an impact on the budget.

Squaw Island Situation: Out of Control

Much of the digester equipment that breaks down sludge at The Buffalo Sewer Authority has been in a state of disrepair for a number of years, but BSA officials haven't addressed the problem, which has resulted in the current stench that periodically wafts over the City's West Side.

The Control Board apparently seems content to hold their noses over the issue of mismanagement at the BSA.

This fresh show of support for the BSA by the Control Board begs several questions: Why do certain politically connected Sewer Authority officials continue to enjoy raises and special perks like brand new SUV’s on the City’s dime while other City employees such as the teachers must submit to the BFSA’s wage freezes and job cuts?

Why have allegations of no-show jobs and other corrupt practices at the BSA never been investigated? And is there any truth to the rumor that BSA Chief Anthony Hazzan threw Control Board President Thomas E. Baker out of his office in City Hall after a heated debate? Mr. Baker has not responded to our requests for an interview.

All the digester equipment at the Bird Island Treatment Facility is in a state of complete disrepair, despite the fact that millions of dollars have been invested in the facility. Could this be due to the mismanagement of Tony Masiello’s boyhood chum and BSA Chief, “Tough” Tony Hazzan, as many have alleged? The Control Board apparently doesn’t want to find out. Where will the money come from to make repairs, if not from the taxpayers?

Is it the contention of the Control Board that the money necessary to repair this equipment will not come out of the City’s budget? Is the City not liable for the very real possibility of another environmental disaster, courtesy of Mr. Hazzan and his crew?

By going after the Construction Board, the Control Board seems to be attracted to a pot of gold. The Sewer Authority is the complete opposite of a pot of gold, and yet it will undoubtedly continue to require large expenditures that will come out of the city’s coffers. Concerns over mismanagement even made the front page of The Buffalo News, recently. How is it that the Control Board can look the other way?

Male Bonding

Tony Masiello has taken care of boyhood friends like Mr. Hazzan and a host of others. Of course, political patronage of this nature is a tradition in Buffalo politics. By zeroing in on the Construction Board, the Control Board, may simply be honoring another tradition in New York State politics, namely, the manipulation of bonding agreements between State Authorities and the financial institutions that float the bonds.

Since the days of Robert Moses, Public Authorities in New York State have often shaped bonding agreements that would be extremely favorable to the bankers who controlled the boards of these Authorities. While M&T is not underwriting the billion dollar Construction Board bond itself, it's important to note that M&T board member and former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, Jr. is a lifelong friend of Sandy Weill, the CEO of Citibank whose investment banking arm, Salomon Smith Barney is handling the bond.

By cutting back on the original construction plans, the offering becomes more attractive to buyers while also reducing the risk to the seller. Slowing down the construction schedule can also be seen as way of buying time for the formation of more charter schools, which in turn, may reduce the workload of the Construction Board further.

Delays have also hurt the Building & Trades Union's minority training center, which lost money by planning its coursework around the original construction schedule. This, of course, plays into the flagrant anti-union animus of Mr. Wilmers and his cronies.

The school construction scandal that took place in New York City in the seventies stands out as one of the greatest wastes of taxpayer dollars. At its root was a political-business-criminal nexus that was above the law and accountable to no one. Perhaps history is about to repeat itself. Between M&T's Control Board agenda and the Buffalo Sewer Authority's stench it's beginning to look like a case of the old boy network meets the goodfellas, all over again.

What should have been clear from the Alt Press article entitled, “Buffalo Sewer Authority: Burnin’ Down The Shithouse,” is that these latest troubles involving non-functioning “digesters” are part of a long-running pattern of institutional incompetence fostered by political patronage.

During the Masiello Administration’s term in office, millions of dollars have been invested in the Squaw Island headquarters of the BSA (which is known officially as the Bird Island Treatment Plant). The current, dire condition of the facility lends credence to allegations of malfeasance reported to Alt by sources on condition of anonymity over the past eight years .

What is perhaps most troubling is the fact that all of the early warning signs of gross mismanagement and/or incompetence were clear at least seven years ago after two serious and preventable accidents were made public.

The News article quotes Daniel R. David, regional engineer for environmental quality for the state DEC, as saying "The city and the sewer authority are probably not in the best financial straits for a number of years and they've probably let maintenance go at times."

Of course, it is the Department of Environmental Conservation’s responsibility to make sure that these probable lapses in maintenance do not result in a threat to the public health. Clearly the DEC like the Mayor’s office and the EPA failed to make sure that political patronage appointees like Mr. Hazzan (who, by the way, had no engineering qualifications for his position) let things get to the point that they are at now.

As a result of these failures, an entire section of the City is facing a summer of stench that would make a garbage strike in New York seem like a bed of roses by comparison.

As we said in our April 16th issue: “The Buffalo Sewer Authority is a pretty good metaphor for Buffalo politics, in general – up to its eyeballs in feces and sinking fast. A political patronage haven from way back, the Buffalo Sewer Authority is headquartered on Squaw Island – a fitting location for a public authority with a license from New York State to borrow and spend to its heart's content.”

Buffalo Sewer Authority: An Abridged Timeline

The following articles from Alt Press are provided to give readers some background on the history of the BSA under the Masiello Administration:

December 23, 1996 Untreated waste water released into the Niagara River between 6:50 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Approximately 50 million to 75 million gallons of partially treated and untreated waste water was released into the Niagara River from the Bird Island sewage treatment plant. The reason for the alleged incident was that the BSA failed to order chlorine, resulting in the authority temporarily running out of chlorine.

February 24, 1997 Another major spill was discovered; more than three to four million gallons of untreated raw and industrial sewage was pumped into the canal and into the Buffalo River from the Kelly substation. The official cause of the accident as reported in The Buffalo News was that the electrical pumps at Kelly Station shorted out and a bleeder line broke under the pressure.

According to information Alt received from a source within the BSA is that the real cause of the accident was a $25 bleeder valve and leaking sump discharge line. A request for replacement or repair of the bleeder valve and line was placed on January 24, 1997, a month before the accident.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority Maintenance Department reported a break-in to the Buffalo Police. They reported a computer as having been stolen. The stolen computer was not a new computer but was instead an older model. Information contained in the missing computer includes all maintenance department work orders.

June 4, 1997 After the February accident sources told Alt thatlogbooks (composition notebooks) at the South Buffalo, Hamburg Street, and X station were reported to have been removed and were replaced with new ones.

In April of '97 the BSA Maintenance Department reported a break-in to the Buffalo Police. They reported a computer as having been stolen. The stolen computer was not a new computer but was instead an older model. Information contained in the missing computer includes all maintenance department work orders.

September 8, 1998 As of this date, our sources tell us that the sludge pump, settled waste pumps, aeration and final effluent pumps, sludge de-watering pumps, digester pumps are all labeled as OOS (out of service).

The incinerators are not fulfilling their design specifications and there is some question as to the effectiveness of the scrubbers. Scrubbers are used to remove large amounts of pollutants from the burned waste before it is released into the air.

The South Buffalo pumping station is unmanned on weekends and has serious maintenance problems. The autom atic switch to the power transfer lines is labeled OOS, and one of the pumps can only be operated manually. Sump pumps located in the (Megastructure sub-basement) of the Administration building are not functional. The (west) hypochlorite system, also located in the administration building is labeled OOS. Hypochlorite is used to treat effluents before they are discharged into the river.

June 21, 1999 The Squaw Island digesters, those concrete tanks with brick facades, are now bubbling over like witches’ cauldrons on a daily basis. The contents of these tanks are toxic and could be a source for E-coli bacterium, among other environmental contaminants. Sources on the island confirmed that this waste is being treated with sodium hypochloride, and ever increasing amounts are being ordered to treat the contents bubbling out of the digesters.

It is further alleged that “Tough Tony Hazzan” has been the recipient of free golf lessons, golf trips, tickets for sporting events, and “kick backs.” Information from some of the employees of the BSA related that Hazzan, along with Jim Naples (Sewer Authority Board Member), in company with Vito and Michael Masiello (the mayor’s brothers) were treated to several outings at Saratoga Racetrack and the Sagamore Resort free of charge. All of this is courtesy of a vendor and two representatives of the company having extensive business dealings with the BSA. Our informants have indicated that other board members have been included in some of the largess bestowed by the vendors.

Mr. Hazzan is alleged to have used a carpenter hired on a temporary basis to perform work on his home, using materials purchased with Sewer Authority funds. It is further alleged that a local exterminating firm took care of the pigeon problems at Hazzan’s home free of charge. It has been further alleged that special employees receive compensation for time not worked and that intimidation and threats are used routinely to force compliance.

July 19,1999 Sources tell Alt of a breakdown of the scum removal apparatus at the BSA They said that the scum was vacuumed up with a super-sucker apparatus and that it was then de-watered and put into a waste hauler trailer; C.I.D. No. 20-402. Alt found trailer C.I.D. No. 20-402 on July 7, at 6 p.m. at an open lot owned by the BSA on Hamburg St. It appeared to be filled with toxic material. The material appeared to have a white foaminess, indicating a mixture of oil and water. It also had a noxious, sweet chemical odor. The gate was left open, and children were playing nearby. Alt took photos of the site. The aforementioned trailer was leaking water and oils onto the ground. The contents were consistent with the allegations. After Alt held a press conference at the site attended by Channels 4 and 7, Hazzan denied the allegations, but could not explain the contents of the dumpster. The dumpster then disappeared overnight.

February 20, 2000 According to multiple sources, Malcolm Pirnie (the consulting engineer contracted to work with the BSA) provided Hazzan with a complimentary package of free hotel accommodations, air fare, and tickets to Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, Georgia.

After 70 minutes, I began looking at my watch. By 90 minutes, I was antsy. As the film rolled on to its conclusion, I grew bored. The movie is a propagandist’s dream. It’s very good; at times it’s terrific, but the only people who will gain anything from it are undecided voters, and the key question is this: are undecided voters going to go see Fahrenheit 9/11? It’s not going to change determined Democrat (or anti-Bush) minds; why would it, they’re not voting for Bush. And it will certainly not change any hidebound Republican (or pro-Bush) minds; they will vote for Bush even if he asked them to pay $5.00 a gallon for gasoline.

The next obvious question is this: what about it just being a good movie worth seeing? Of course, the critical standards for all films should be the same, whether it’s film as entertainment, film as art, film as educational tool, or film as propaganda. Fahrenheit 9/11 is informative and enjoyable, but it’s hardly engrossing. If you enjoy seeing a doofy, churlish, snot-nosed, rich boy frat punk getting his comeuppance, you will find the movie wildly entertaining.

The truth of the matter is that I found the movie markedly sad.

What struck me as sad is not Moore or his work – he’s very good at what he does and he deserves a lot of credit for sticking to his anti-Bush guns. He’s got guts that’s for sure. I like Moore and am glad he’s making movies. What’s sad is the film’s subtext. It’s underpinnings. The very reason for its existence.

Moore implies that George W. Bush and his henchmen (and henchwomen) stole the 2000 election. Like some banana republic, the United States Of America lost its soul. George, his brother Jeb, and others “knew” they were going to win Florida.

Moore also implies that on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush and his henchmen (and henchwomen) were clueless as to how to react. The White House has long stated that Bush stayed less than 30 seconds in the Florida grade school classroom where he was reading a book entitled My Pet Goat to children. Moore has footage that shows Bush sitting and sitting and sitting in front of the class, a dumb look on his face. What Moore also does is to plop a clock in the corner of the screen and you see time go by. Then Moore sticks in the knife. He asks, “what was the president thinking?” Moore then answers his own question. His answer? That Bush was worried about his family’s ties to the Bin Laden family, and whether he could go on vacation again. There are points made, points still in contention, as to whether or not the Bushies allowed the Bin Laden clan and other Saudis (142 people in all) to flee America after 9-11 without having been questioned by the FBI. Of course, a possible answer is that Bush couldn’t have been thinking about the Bin Ladens because at that point in time, he didn’t know who flew the jetliners into the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. Or, did he? And, it seems that Bush had been on vacation 42 % of the time during the first eight months of his term. By the way, the events of September 11th are heard not shown. The screen goes to black and you hear the roar of the jet engines, explosions, and people screaming. It’s very dramatic.

All of this saddened me. I was also struck by the chaos in Iraq. Moore has tough footage of shattered and maimed children. He also lobs in lots of footage of killed and injured American military personnel in Iraq. And he tosses in a Saudi beheading to stress his point that a police state like Saudi Arabia was more dangerous than Iraq under Saddam Hussein. You can’t help but watch all of this and start thinking about the fact that a year ago so many innocent citizens of Iraq and so many young Americans were alive, and now they are dead. And why? For what? Is it because, as George II says in the movie, “Saddam tried to kill my daddy.” Sad, sad, sad.

Moore plays the oil card a lot during Fahrenheit 9/11, and this is where he starts to get bogged down. He wallows into conspiracy theory terrain a bit too much. The connections between Papa Bush (George I) and Vice President Dick Cheney and the Saudis and President Harmid Karzai of Afghanistan and Halliburton and the Defense Industry are thrown at the audience like darts at a bulls-eye in a bar. It’s all too glib, too slick. Maybe it’s all true, but more facts are needed than are revealed in the film. Moore’s point is that Bush The Second is nothing more than putty in the hands of these folks, a mere puppet, and a not very bright one at that. I’ve got news for Moore; Bush is bright enough to get the war he wanted. Never underestimate the village idiot.

Moore also takes on the Patriot Act and makes mincemeat of Attorney General John Ashcroft. If Ashcroft had any self-respect, he’d crawl into a hole and pull a cover over it. Moore chastises the gullible mainstream media (both print and broadcast) for swallowing the Bushies’ own propaganda about Iraq hook, line, and sinker. He looks at Bush’s National Guard record. Do any of you know who James Bath is, and why he’s important? You will after seeing the movie. And Moore also tries to get Congressmen to enroll their children in the military. The sight of members of the House Of Representatives scurrying like rats away from Moore is hilarious.

But through it all is the cloak of darkness that Moore depicts as having spread across the country. Moore wants Bush’s term to seem a like a bad dream. A sad part about the dream is the number of young Americans who went to war for a Texas ego and are returning maimed or won’t return at all. Moore wants Americans to wake up this November 3rd having sent Bush back to his Crawford ranch the day before. His mission, which he has accepted, is to help make that happen. Fahrenheit 9/11 is one point-of-view. Fortunately, despite bumps in the road, the American way is to allow that point-of-view to be heard. How the undecided reacts is their inalienable right to choose.

The Notebook is told using parallel story-lines. The tale of young love is read aloud by a sharp-witted senior citizen (James Garner) to a fellow nursing home resident who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s (Gena Rowlands). Both of these performers are superb. The two stories are bound together. Garner is the aging Noah and Rowlands is the dying Allie. Are you weeping yet? Garner is reading from notebooks he kept of his life and love. The movie crosscuts between the past and the present. I guess there’s good and bad news in all of this. This is a classically-styled melodrama. It’s written by Jeremy Leven from an adaptation by Jan Sardi, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. If you haven’t read Sparks’ books, he’s a male romance writer. His works are sometimes cloying, often hard-to-swallow, but always about love and romance and the warm runny feelings they imbue. Message In A Bottle, The Rescue, The Wedding are three of his published novels. Neither Sparks, nor the writers, nor director Nick Cassavetes (son of the legendary John Cassavetes and Ms. Rowlands) are afraid of emotion, and I admire them for that. I refuse to sneer at romance novels. I may never read them, but I’d rather people read them than read nothing at all. The movie suffers a touch from overstatement; there’s an obviousness that actually impedes the film’s flow. I enjoyed this movie for the acting, for its simplicity, and for its daring in thinking we haven’t become so cynical a nation that greeting card movies don’t matter any more.

On the other hand, cynical manipulation is awash in The Terminal, a melodrama of a different stripe. The movie is played for laughs, thanks to Tom Hanks galumphing performance, as if he’s discovered the milk of human kindness, when in fact he’s only discovered how to be a ham. But the premise is serious, even if it’s a premise that’s hard to swallow. An Eastern European fellow named Viktor (Hanks) is on a jet winging its way to New York’s JFK Airport when a coup overthrows his country’s leaders, seals the borders, and make him stateless. Supposedly, this is all based on a true story, but I’m not buying any of the cloying Hollywood embellishments. Is he the only person from his country to whom this is happening? Nobody else from Krakozia on the plane? Or any other plane? Viktor ends up being rejected by Customs, told he can’t enter America by an officious Homeland Security bureaucrat (Stanley Tucci), and lives for a time at the terminal. He washes up in the rest room, sleeps on benches, and becomes smitten with a flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He also keeps a peanut can as a fetish object, not unlike Wilson the volleyball in Hanks’ other man-alone effort, Cast Away. The movie can only be as interesting as the actor playing the part because he’s on screen virtually all of the time. Unfortunately, Hanks acting tour-de-force is more like a tour-de-narcolepsy.

The Terminal is boring because it’s not that well-acted and it’s utterly and patently ludicrous. There are no surprises. The comedy is featherweight. Sometimes Hanks seems to think he’s doing Jacques Tati, the great French comic actor from the 1940s and 1950s, who virtually mimed his way through his films. News flash for Hanks. You’re no Jacque Tati. In this day and age, no person is going to be treated like the Viktor character is treated in the film. Not in this era of terrorism alerts. And the movie is absolutely set in the here and now. Where’s the Red Cross? Where’s the U.N.? Where’s the Immigration Halfway House? Where’s any beady-eyed, greedy shark of a lawyer who sees a millions bucks in publicity to be made? As for director Steven Spielberg, his one saving grace is the set of the JFK terminal, which was actually erected piece by piece in Palmdale, California in the desert area north of Los Angeles. Spielberg thinks he’s making one of those slice-of-life comedies the way the Czechs did in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but he isn’t. Not when his movie is a non-stop commercial for products galore. Something can’t be cluttered with garish signs and advertising and then claim it’s honoring simplicity and human experience. Not a chance. This is one dumb, misguided movie that might have been interesting if a little thought had gone into the screenplay and if Viktor had left the building.

Sue gave us a tour of the place as she explained the basic services she offered. She said, beside doggy daycare as daycare, doggy daycare is also socialization. Folks bring their dogs three to four times a week. Some folks bring them once a week or once a month. Sue says many of her customers bring their dog to daycare to become better doggy citizens.

“The dog owner may feel that their dog does not get along with other dogs. So they bring them to daycare and in a few days we can size them up and see it they need problem training. Must of the time the dogs do fine,” she said.

She showed us the indoor daycare area, which was very clean. Sue explained the number of training courses they offered: puppy kindergarten for untrained young dogs, advance kindergarten, and adolescent obedience training. Three courses are for basic family companion training. An absolute “must” advance course is the AKC good citizen, the completion of the course you get a AKC certificate The basic courses last four weeks, advance courses six weeks, and class size is limited to six dogs.

The kennel area for overnight boarding is clean and new. Sue explained that with overnight boarding, they now staff the facility 24/7. They do both short term and long term boarding. Dog Days of Buffalo has six employees who receive vacation pay and medical benefits, three of the staff are certified pet care technicians. Ms. Harris said she believes that quality care can only come from a quality staff.

As we left I commented that this was like a doggy spa. Sue laughed and said, “No in reality this is like a doggy gym.”

If stellar red (Hereford Beef) is a high priority for you, I think that statement is true. If looking for a clientele of the magically diverse, neighborhood, melting pot types, I think that statement is true. If a Big Sky/Montana/Cattle motif is what you hanker for, I think that statement is true. Tucker Curtin, “Proud Owner,” is the difference. With a uniquely specialized background in beef, he makes this saloon a comfortable, exceptional and fun place to eat.

“The meat’s “Great”... Decadent.” “The rare and succulent filet made me feel hedonistic…the Béarnaise was a treat.” “Burger is delicious…it’s a beautiful place.” When I’m in from Chicago, I always get the Double Cut Pork Chops…They always go out of their way.” “Seafood Combo… Perfect

Notebook

# 1 Hereford Beef –The Real Giddy Up

# 2 Montana Room Capacity -- 200

# 3 Happy Hour, 4-7 Everyday

# 4 35th Anniversary Party - August 1st

Menu:

Warm garlic bread ** Seafood Combo Platter for Two “Kicked” Salad with Grilled Chicken “Kicked” Salad with Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

Entrées # Filet Mignon (Hereford Beef) Thick-Cut Rib Eye (Hereford Beef)

Dessert Lemon Raspberry Cheese Cake * Turtle Cake

Libations Pinot Grigio, La Marca, Italy * Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi Coastal, Private Stock, California

* - Best of Category # - Best of Show

The Associated Press stories from one day alone seem to prove that point. On June 24th, insurgents launched coordinated attacks across the country, attacking the much-beleaguered police stations and other government facilities. Over 100 civilians were killed, with hundreds more wounded. Three more American G.I.’s were killed as well. Hardly, the kind of daily figures anticipated a year ago.

It is obvious that these so-called insurgents have the initiative, and can roam the country at will, attacking targets at there own choosing. No one can stop them. Allawi’s brave face and tough talk cannot change the fact that his country teeters on the brink of disaster, and he can do nothing to stop it.

Israelis At The Gate

To make matters worse, it has been confirmed that the Israeli’s have operatives in the northern Kurdish areas of Iraq. The New Yorker also reports that Israeli commandos and Mossad agents have crossed the Kurdish frontier with Kurdish commandos onto Iran to install sensors and other intelligence gathering devices to spy on Iranian nuclear facilities. Reports also indicate that the Israeli Air Force is poised to launch its own pre-emptive strike against these same nuclear facilities. The result of an Israeli/Kurdish/Iranian confrontation could trigger a tactical nuclear exchange.

The Kurds want their own homeland, and they may not trust the US or a new government in Iraq to guarantee their own sovereignty. The Kurds’ own military could move on the oil fields around Kirkuk. There is no one to stop them. But this could trigger an invasion from Turkey just to the north. Video of Turkish armored divisions crossing the border is no fantasy. Again, who would stop them? If American intervention occurred, the negative image of Imperial America protecting its colony would then be sent off to the drug store and printed.

As predicted, the new government asked US troops to stay on and help with building security forces for the now fledgling democracy. With the Fourth of July approaching, we can see ourselves as modern day Marquis de La Fayette’s, coming to the aid of our newest Iraqi band of brothers in liberty. One pauses to wonder: will there ever be a Bushville, Iraq?? Meanwhile, On The Eastern Front… As the Bush-Neo con administration whistles past the Iraqi graveyard, the President last week had the gall to use Afghanistan as the model for a new Iraq. As we have reported in Alt and talked about on our radio show The News Room, Afghanistan is a failed state of appalling condition. It has remained in the Dark Ages after the Taliban. Afghan President Hamid Karzai rules only a small part of downtown Kabul.

Last week yet another province was overrun by the warlord/drug lord of the moment, with the accompanying slaughter. The Karzai government inside Kabul has decided not send to troops to retake the provincial capitol until well after the rebels abandoned the city.

Meanwhile, the poppy harvest has reached an all-time record high.

And The Atrocities Continue. Insurgents executed South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il, after Seoul had refused to pull out its 670 soldiers from Iraq and cancel the deployment of an additional 3,000.

This gruesome story came on the heels of the equally gruesome killing of American Paul Johnson, Jr., on Friday in Saudi Arabia. The fact that Johnson’s killers claimed to have had help from renegades inside the Saudi Security services should come as no surprise to anyone.

House of Saud Tightens Its Grip

The House of Saud is universally hated outside its own palaces, and its corruption noted throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Elements inside the Kingdom are determined to overthrow the Monarchy and replace it with a radical, fundamentalist Islamic Republic.

For decades, the Royal family has survived by executing some of its domestic enemies and bribing the others. But still, the presence of US and British infidels is trying the patience of the militant clerics. They and their political mentor, Osama Bin Laden want the hated westerners out, and the Royal Family with them. And 25% of the world’s oil is hanging in the balance. Militants of various affiliations and loyalties have banned together, much like they have in neighboring Iraq, to target westerners, hoping to destabilize the government. But The Royal family also controls the military in the form of the National Guard. There is also an army, but the family does not trust its officer Corps not to mutiny, so it is never issued any ammunition. The National Guard, however, is armed to the teeth and manned by the Royal family’s numerous relatives and trusted allies.

A blood bath looms for the Kingdom in its immediate future, a civil war no doubt inspired by the one boiling to the surface in Iraq.

Just Another Day

Kidnappings, car bombs, executions, gang warfare, clan revenge, extortion, organized crime, robbery, violence and just plain murder are commonplace in Iraq. The only safe place seems to be inside the Green Zone, where an American appointed puppet cabinet presides over a looking glass government. Two of its officials have been blown to bits right outside the gates. The puppets can’t leave their compound without overwhelming escort, and that seems of lesser value when the insurgents have the offensive initiative and the support of as much of 75% of ordinary Iraqis.

Waiting in the political wings is the Government in Iran. Tehran is patiently waiting for the explosion, along with their new friends the Russians and Chinese.

Unfortunately, American soldiers will likely experience much of the collateral damage.

The party faithful began wandering in. I recognized a number them from other events like the Kerry rally in the Ellicott Square Building this spring. These folks were the big spenders investing in their future. Like good gamblers, many of them cover their bets with Republican Party donations as well.

With the words, “Edward is downstairs” the reporters were took off for the first floor. By the elevator, Edwards was in media press mode - cameras were flashing, Bob McCarthy from The Buffalo News was asking questions, and everyone was trying to get in position for their shot. Oh, the excitement!

Edwards went upstairs and then met the folks. For a price you could get photo-op, a picture with Edward smiling like he is your best friend and shaking your hand. There was a long line of folks awaiting their opportunity to have their picture take with the man.

Edwards is clearly running for Vice-President. He’s been making four stops a day. He was scheduled to be in Buffalo for two hours - max. Lenny Lenihan, the Erie County Democratic chair gave the standard introduction.

What is interesting is Edwards restarted this campaign after getting back from Europe. He said in his speech that he was there to attend a meeting of NATO, but he also made a stop in Italy to attend a meeting of the Bilderbergers, a group comprised of the wealthiest industrialists and bankers in the world.

Edward gave his standard stump speech. He put emotion into it. Trying to uplift the faithful. The faithful listened to his journey from poverty to being a Senator. He spoke of race being an American issue and not just a black issue. He said that poverty is not a poor person’s issue but is a mortal American issue. The ghost of Michael Harrington’s “Other America” and democratic liberalism filled the room.

However, it was obvious from the response he received that the true believers left the building long ago. This audience was about the real politick. They had paid the tribute and an Edwards victory was a return on investment. As hard as Edwards may have tried, youthful idealism and enthusiasm was not on the agenda.

It was the same when Kerry spoke here in the spring – a rally of controlled enthusiasm.

Last year, two buses filled with young people from Buffalo traveled to New Hampshire to campaign for Dean in sub-zero weather. What happened to Howard’s army? What happened to the so-called anger in the speaking of truth to power? It just wasn’t part of this political cast. It remains to seem if it will be part of this Democratic Party.

I left after Edwards and I watched for as a moment the party faithful eating their $1200 lunches.

In the Danbury FPC, as in all federal prisons, prisoners who cannot verify that they have either a high school diploma or a GED are required to attend classes for 240 hours. Aside from their physical presence, nothing more is mandated. It seems that there is no requirement that students be supplied with textbooks or any other kind of materials to facilitate learning. In fact, students were “strongly encouraged” to buy composition books at the commissary at five dollars for a three-book set. This is a large sum for the students, many of whom earn twelve cents an hour at their prison jobs (“this is a working camp”). The staff instructor/correctional officer (co) told the students who suggested that the “school” provide them notebooks, “I am Joe Public. I have to buy notebooks for my children. Why should my tax money go to pay for notebooks for inmates?” His face wrinkled into an expression of distaste as he uttered the word “inmates.”

When the students complained about being forced to attend school after working all day, the instructor shouted. When they argued or failed to pay attention, he shouted. If they expressed discomfort about reading out loud, he shouted. “You are in jail!” “You are an inmate!” Occasionally, the shouts turned into threats. “When the lieutenant sees how many times you’ve refused a direct order, he will say, ‘Oh my! She needs to go to the SHU right away!’”

The SHU (“Special Housing Unit”), also known as “seg,” is nothing like detention in high school. It’s more like a scene from a bad prison movie : three tiers of two-person cages and guards marching orange-clad inmates in handcuffs through the corridors.

Out of class, the instructor told his English-language tutorial staff of his intentions to send at least three students to the SHU for ninety days before heading off early in June for his vacation. He commented, “I don’t care if they never learn that one plus one equals two. I get paid for eight hours of work.” He also demanded complete loyalty from the three tutors: “Either you’re with me or you’re with them.”

Before my job as an educational aide/tutor ended, the instructor’s comments became increasingly vitriolic. Complaints were lodged about the racial and sexual nature of the commentary, but I cannot go into any more detail as the matter is under investigation.

I decided that it was time for a career change. I had become a tutor to help students develop their writing skills. I did not feel that I could do so in such an oppressive atmosphere. My requests for reassignment or even for firing went nowhere. After hearing the offensive comments, another tutor and I went to speak with various staff members about the teacher’s conduct. I then decided to try to invite a firing by going on “strike.”

Going on strike in prison has more dramatic repercussions than merely a firing. It involved various staff members conferring about me. An incident report was filed, and a lieutenant was summoned from the FCI (the big medium-security prison down the hill). He questioned me and said, “I have to take you to the FCI.”

The lieutenant walked me down the hill into the front entrance of the FCI, across a courtyard, and into the SHU. The place was creepy, yet familiar. When I arrived to begin serving my sentence on April 6, I spent a night in the SHU, as many new inmates do. This time, I was taken to the top tier and was put into a cage, all by myself. My khaki uniform, socks, and shoes were taken from me. I was given an orange t-shirt, orange socks, and a too-large pair of pants. The shoes that I was handed were so orange that they could glow in the dark. They fit like sausage casings. The guard left me to contemplate my new home and fashion statement. Where was Martha Stewart to help me accessorize it?

The next day, I was released from the SHU and was taken back to the camp. I found out that two of three English-language tutors had been fired. A few days later, I started a new job in grounds maintenance. I work outside, with minimal supervision. I’ve seen wild turkeys, chipmunks, cardinals and butterflies.

Today, as I cleared grass from a walkway, I looked at the far off hills, seemingly melting into the pale blue sky. I wondered about the attitude of someone who repeatedly roared, “You are an inmate!” Does identifying people as “inmates” or as an “enemy” or as “terrorists” make them easier to target for poor treatment? The abuse of the prisoners in Iraq is not an aberration nor is the treatment of detainees in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, denied prisoner of war status.

“Inmate,” “enemy,” and “terrorist” are just words. But words have power and they reinforce the “us vs. them” attitudes, which seem to make abuse and violence almost acceptable. But not quite.

The question looming large points directly to the inescapable fact that we have achieved a position in time where we as a species threaten not only our own existence but all of life as we have come to know it. The evidence of climate change is now readily observable to the naked eye and all the future plans “of mice and men” will be dictated by a power far greater than all the men and women that unlocked the secrets of the atom.

Daily floods of biblical proportions, droughts, plagues and insect infestation along with hellfire and brimstone are captured on film and transmitted in micro seconds as we stand transfixed at the horror of swollen bodies and destroyed dreams. Our attention spans are not much greater than the micro-seconds that brought these images of human suffering and death replaced instantly as our TV clicks to another mindless channel. We grab the keys to our shiny SUV’s and hit the road in a great hurry to grab all of the latest low carb goodies being touted as necessary for a long happy life. Forgotten are the images of millions of starving humans throughout the world and the choking emissions being pumped from our exhaust systems as we unload tons of carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere.

Escaping our very own culpabilities we assess blame to varied agencies and peoples. Government leaders and our ubiquitous media lend substance to mediocrity and promote a mental paucity bereft of rational thought. We hurtle through our existence as if caught on a giant loop ride and we view reality as a theme park akin to Disney World. Gone are the poets, replaced by the vulgarity of Jerry Springer and the value free world of American Idol.

“We have met the enemy and he is us,” said Pogo in that long lost comic strip; but this truth proclaimed by Pogo still haunts the memories of many undead thinkers that appear as nothing more than “voices crying from the wilderness.” Each and every day they become fainter and harder to hear as they are drowned out by the innocuous cacophony of whining narcissism. “Man made climate change isn’t as percussive as nuclear war… yet without international action—a Manhattan Project to develop low impact energy technologies and a revolutionary commitment to global equity—it too promises social and economic collapse. … We are well past the threshold of inevitable change (man made) and on the cusp of climate destabilization.” Verlyn Klinkenborg-The New York Times Book Review - May 30, 2004 edition.

The orange flag is flying. Unlike Ashcroft and Ridge and their Department of Homeland Security the evidence presented to the American public by our most eminent scientists can be directly viewed and felt by Americans from sea to shinning sea.

“To most scientists, global warming is a truly successful hypothesis. The evidence overwhelmingly shows, as predicted, that human behavior is altering the climate, with potentially catastrophic results.” Should we continue to act as “suicide bombers” blithely wandering down the road to our own destruction; or should we pause and change course to provide a viable future for what we hope are many more generations of our children?

First, you cite Bush’s “inept, reckless foreign policy.” But you’ve agreed with him on every major policy decision along the way. You voted for the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. You said, “I believe we must always have a preemptive right” to first strike, which is illegal under the UN Charter. You have blamed the Palestinians for Israel’s refusal to abide by UN Resolutions calling for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. You were right behind Bush in condemning US abuse of Iraqi POWs -- and rightly so -- but you also joined Bush in declaring the problem to be limited to a few “bad apples”, and not the pattern of abuse that the evidence shows (the kind you once seemed to recognize in Vietnam). I’d expect a reversal of these positions.

You also voted for the “USA PATRIOT Act”, the “Visa Entry Reform Act” and other draconian legislation, much of which was on the Republican wish list for years. You seem to agree with the President that the only way to protect our lives is to trash the Constitution, the same document you would have to swear to defend if you’re elected -- just the opposite of what I look for in a candidate.

True, as you say, millions live in fear of losing jobs, healthcare, pensions, etc. But these are more than academic issues to many of us who have not had the benefit of your personal wealth. My own family has experienced unemployment, layoffs, lack of healthcare and other benefits, underfunded education, children raised in poverty and abortions out of desperation. My mother, who is disabled and recently suffered a major heart attack as well as gall bladder surgery, may be about to lose her Medicaid. These are issues I personally, along with millions of other Americans, need to see addressed in reality not just rhetoric. You say you want to replace “doubt with hope,” “fear with security,” and “broken promises with a real plan.” But mostly what I see coming out of your campaign so far are doubt, fear and not much of a plan.

On jobs, you called the idea of pulling out of NAFTA and the WTO “disastrous,” even though these kind of so-called “free trade” agreements are in fact draining off US jobs at a “disastrous” rate, not to mention the devastating effect on neighboring economies. You haven’t promised to stand behind unions when their employers lock them out or permanently replace strikers. You haven’t come out in favor of penalties or other consequences for corporations that “cut and run” from communities that have subsidized them for years, leaving unemployment, poverty and despair in their wake. (They could pay the money back, for example.)

On healthcare, you haven’t spoken in favor of a single-payer plan, of the kind that eliminated the problem of the uninsured in Canada, or national healthcare as in England. My wife is from England, and, sure, they complain about the National Health, but when they learn how America’s system works (or doesn’t work) they can’t believe their ears. To them, no civilized country would tolerate the US healthcare system. In Canada, too, their healthcare system is the single favorite government program of all time, and it works. That’s why so many Americans now are crossing in Canada to buy their drugs. As far as I know you haven’t spoken out in favor of “free trade“ in pharmaceuticals, however.

And I’m not clear at all on what you plan to do to save pensions, or Social Security, from the common theft of bosses and government budget policies. I know you voted against the Republican “lockbox” bill, but I haven’t seen your “real plan” to protect either of these.

I’m glad that you oppose school vouchers and support abortion rights, which does distinguish you from the President. But you seem vague on these points, too. The real problem with education funding now is that most public schools are funded by property taxes, so the poorest kids get the poorest education. The current problems with abortion rights, too, are mostly economic. Federal funds pay for many medical procedures, but not abortion or proper reproductive counseling. On the other hand, many women feel driven to have abortions because of the prohibitive costs of day care, or because they are forced to work by Clinton-era welfare cuts. I haven’t heard you offer to help with these problems.

Your letter asks for my help in waging “a campaign in which we stand up for what we believe in” -- but what do you stand for? You mention “our cause,” but you don’t seem to have one -- except getting elected. If I’m wrong, I apologize, but your campaign seemed to start off center-right, and since you sewed up the nomination you have jogged further right. We don’t need another Republican in the White House, Mr. Kerry; that’s supposedly why we have the Democrats. You need to offer us a genuine alternative if you want to inspire us to turn out and vote for you, much less work on your campaign or give you money.

Maybe you will win despite the problems I point out, and nobody will be happier than I would be to see George W. Bush’s policies repudiated. I’m just not clear that voting for you, or sending you money, represents that kind of repudiation. I sincerely hope you can prove me wrong.

Okay, who is really beleaguering the City of Buffalo? The Republican-dominated Control Board, the State GOP under George Pataki and Joe Bruno, the Republican Party under George Bush and of course the elitist Group of Eighteen hold all the cards. Is it the people who control all the money and power that are the problem here or is it the people with little of anything?

In quiet breakfast meetings and heartfelt downtown chats, Buffalo's business leaders are waging an intensive search for one of their own to become the city's next mayor.

Why are the breakfast meetings so quiet? Is it because no one wants to wake up Bob Wilmers? And how do these people have heartfelt chats about further cuts in fire, police, education, etc? “This will hurt them more than it will hurt us.” “Yes, heartbreaking, isn’t it? Pass the cream cheese.” If these guys are really business leaders and not just the products of inherited wealth would it really be necessary to conduct an “intensive search?” And if it is one of their own that they’re really after, why is the task so arduous? After all, there’s hardly any legitimate business left. I mean, leaders are supposed to stand out aren’t they? Maybe they’re looking for the new breed of business leader exemplified by our President, one who hides from the press and spends more time on vacation than Cal Coolidge.

It is time for someone outside the normal political establishment to step forward for the 2005 election, they say, pointing to massive population loss and a state financial control board as the products of politics as usual. Whoah! Hang on a sec! I thought they were conducting “an intensive search for one of their own”? They are the normal political establishment! They’re the same people who managed to run Tony Masiello unopposed.

Population loss and the state control board aren’t the products of politics as usual, they’re the products of The Buffalo Club’s Group of Eighteen– pure and simple. Our political system is driven by money. Political contributions have flowed into the coffers of politicians who helped their contributors exploit federal and state aid to the City.

Breaking the municipal unions has been part of the game plan for Bob Wilmers & Co. since the early nineties. At a time when other cities were enjoying a boom in investment and enhancing their natural attractions, Buffalo’s business elite focused instead on magic bullet mega projects that would present opportunities to loot government largess on a scale commensurate with the grandeur of the appointments at 388 Delaware Ave.

"Finding someone who will come at (the city's problems) from something other than a political process is something we need to explore seriously," said Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, who is spearheading the search. "We need to try and find someone from outside that perspective."

The problem with politics is that it’s too political. The problem with education is that it’s too educational. The problem with automobiles is that they’re too automotive. This is the sort of brilliant logic that sends its rays of enlightenment across America’s political spectrum from left to right casting its dark shadows only on foreign shores. As a consequence we need to create a public relations barrage that will convince people that as we subvert the democratic institutions of a community it will be done so in a manner that is “something other than a political process.” Of course, Andrew J. Rudnick is “spearheading” the search for someone “outside that perspective.” Wow, the nineties must really be over. Otherwise, we’d be looking “outside the box” for that special someone. Andy Rudnick with a spear? That’s sounds like a reality show that might actually be fun to watch.

The business group is conducting a citywide poll this week to test the idea and has contacted about half a dozen business types so far - some well-known and some obscure Wait. They’re conducting a poll to test the idea? Which idea? The quiet breakfast meeting idea or the idea that there’s some sort of superior politics beyond good and evil? If they poll me

I’ll tell them that they should have their quiet breakfast meetings at Nietzsche’s at three in the morning and barley sandwiches should definitely be on the menu. That way those “obscure” business types could show up. Who knows? Maybe they could even attract Charlie Gargano or Butchie Quarcini, you know, guys who think outside the box.

While Rudnick says a career politician may very well emerge as its candidate, his group continues searching for a fresh face. Okay, so the idea of getting a non-political politician may be out the window after all! Or maybe there’s a non-political politician that’s completely obscure because he’s had his “fresh face” jammed up some bigwig’s ass for years. Now, I t hink we’re getting somewhere.

That face could be a college vice president or a downtown business owner recently profiled as a hip dresser. Of course! Colleges and universities in the United States are completely apolitical! It’s what makes the endless war against terror doable, but does this additional emphasis on wide recognition of fashionable attire mean that gay candidates have an inside track? If so they might have to move the breakfast meetings to a gay bar.

It could be a member of the control board overseeing city finances, or a young Republican from Alden named Wiggle. If only the prerequisite called for a young Republican control board member from Alden named Wiggle who was also a born again Christian – then they could definitely move the quiet breakfast meetings to a gay bar!

Though other names may enter the mix, the most serious prospects include John J. Hurley, 47, vice president for college relations and general counsel for Canisius College. Hurley, a Democrat, was a member of the Charter Revision Commission that redesigned city government several years ago, as well as a City Hall panel searching for a new planning chief last year. He said he is aware of the coordinated effort to find an "outsider" that most likely would reach beyond the current political aspirants.

Canisius College VP for college relations, huh? I had relations when I was in college but never college relations. Is that when the school screws you over on tuition and fees for things you never use? You can’t get a higher “outsider” status than Canisius, with Carl Montante and Paul Koessler stoking the coffers. The great Charter Revision spooled out reams of top shelf toilet paper for control board members to wipe themselves with, so if Hurley was a part of that he’s probably in tight with Jim Magavern, another outsider. And lest we forget Emperor Joel was also a Democrat once upon a time. We gotta keep our eye on this Hurley kid.

"Not a business'

"They don't see in the current lineup the kind of bold and decisive leadership needed to grapple with the problems before the city," Hurley said. "The fact is, government is not a business. But there is something to the argument that the training and experience of someone actually outside of government might be needed."

Oops! The kid might’ve blown it. Apparently, he hasn’t heard the mantra “We have to run it like a business.” The business we have to run it like is Adelphia or maybe Enron (nobody goes to jail with Frank Clark in charge). You’ve got to like Hurley’s virtuous, apolitical public servant rhetoric, though. Very Robert Moses of him. Too bad he’s not Robert Moses.

Other names being mentioned include:

• Steven A. Calvaneso, 44, owner of high-visibility businesses such as City Grill, Bacchus, YaYa Bayou Brewhouse and the Ultimate Men's Shop in Buffalo, as well as Calvaneso's Cosmopolitan Grille in Amherst. Image is everything! Foodies Unite! Dedicated followers of fashion to the ramparts! A flashy Masiello beneficiary! Now that is so far outside the box that I think everyone can get on the bandwagon.

He is registered with no party but is concentrating on the Republican nomination, which many observers think could play a key role in the 2005 election. Again he’s clearly non-political and the unnamed observers so often appealed to in Buffalo News articles (Bacchus? Dionysius?) think that the Republicans will play a key role in 2005. After all, after George Bush wins a landslide victory in the City of Buffalo this fall it only stands to reason that the party will stay on a roll.

• Richard M. Tobe, 55, vice president of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and a control board member. A Democrat, he held high-profile positions with former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski and the late Assemblyman William B. Hoyt. Though Tobe acknowledges discussing a possible run with business leaders, he says he does not expect to seek the post. Remember that ideal obscure candidate specializing in facial proctology we mentioned earlier? Please put the rock back in the position that you found it in, thank you.

• Glenn C. Wiggle, 32, division manager with Next Financial Group in Williamsville and Las Vegas, and co-host of a paid programming radio show called the Financial Forum. At only 32, he has assembled a long resume chock-full of business accomplishments and investments.

Fanatastic choice! An insurance salesman/financial planner/stock picker with a branch office in Vegas and a home on WBEN’s right wing talk radio! That’s a public service record that’s right up there with that of our great Congressman Tom Reynolds. Plus, he’s based in Williamsville and belongs to the Saturn Club. Maybe he can help our geriatric suburbanites figure out which slot machine is right for them when the casino opens.

Hurley said he would compete only if Mayor Anthony M. Masiello decides not to run again, and over the last several weeks has actively explored the possibility. But he says his interest may be cooling in light of responsibilities at Canisius and a new realization of the extent of Buffalo's problems.

We’re talking about Hurley again? Well it’s nice to know he’s got a non-compete clause with Tony, but so does everyone else. This nonsense about responsibilities is annoying, too. Everyone knows the only responsibility he would have as Mayor is to the almighty dollar. As for his “new realization” of Buffalo’s problems, well, let’s just say this kid has been paying very close attention, has he?

"Discussions are not at a complete halt," he said, "but I have been looking at what's being reported out of the control board and the magnitude of the task ahead." Whatever.

Others who have expressed interest in running for mayor include regionalism advocate Kevin P. Gaughan and Bruce L. Fisher, chief of staff to Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, but neither has been contacted by the Partnership. Gaughan’s parents hung out with the Kennedys. Shouldn’t that entitle him to be Mayor of Something? And why is Bruce Fisher embarking on this fishing expedition? Is he afraid of the “toxic Gumby” disease spreading from the Imperial Suite in the Rath Building?

"The usual suspects'

Though its effort remains low-key, the Partnership approaches its objective emboldened by recent successes it considers departures from normal political patterns. They include citywide approval of Common Council downsizing, and last year's surprise election of Andrew A. SanFilippo as city comptroller in a campaign the Partnership helped fund.

Racism is hardly a departure from normal political patterns in Buffalo’s elite circles. Both the Council downsizing and the comptroller’s race benefited from the ability of the Partnership (with some heavy lifting from The Buffalo News) to portray Jim Pitts as the big bad black who was responsible for all the City’s problems. Race was an issue in the referendum and it also helped SanFilippo to beat Pitts. These race-based victories enabled the introduction of the most anti-democratic control board ever. The control board is actually an authority and as we’ve seen time and again, there’s no point to establishing an authority unless you plan on issuing bonds until the end of time.

"We're including all the usual suspects in this," Rudnick said of the overall effort, "but we are also serious about looking for a new type of city government leader." Let’s see. Racist political campaigning, usual suspects, new type of city government leader, hmmm…Got it! Dave Franczyk for Mayor. Now, if only we can gerrymander the City of Buffalo into the Tonawandas.

That is exactly the kind of thinking that guides Jordan Levy, managing general partner of Seed Capital Partners in Buffalo and a member of the 43x79 Group that is also part of the effort. He describes the political-action committee as a "group of guys who get together and put our money where our mouths are." Speaking of usual suspects, it’s good to see Jordan Levy is back with the 2X4 club. We wouldn’t want the Group of Eighteen to suddenly expire from old age with no replacements now, would we?

"If the mayor chooses not to run, we feel strongly about finding someone who will effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound," Levy said. "We don't have an agenda other than creating jobs and making this a better place." So the Mayor who oversaw the biggest decline in property values in the City’s history, aided and abetted by a bank president who now sits on the Control Board, is the kind of guy who will “effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound.”? Only if Tony steps down will they bring in someone new to replace him as Poop Boy #1. That’s really encouraging.

When people from the elites at the Buffalo Club talk about “creating jobs”, they really mean that they’re interested in cashing government welfare checks from ESDC, EIDA, BERC, etc. The boom economy of call centers based in the U.S. is not long for this world, Jordan.

Attention focuses on candidates such as Calvaneso, who says his city investments are proof of his commitment and who expects to formally announce his candidacy early next year.

"Anything involved in making the city better piques my interest," said Calvaneso, the subject of a Buffalo News profile last November as a "metrosexual" who makes an effort to dress stylishly. Yes, but does he go for the full Brazilian bikini wax? If so, we might be back to Andy Rudnick’s quiet breakfast plan.

Wiggle, a Republican, lives in Alden but says he would move into the city if he had an opportunity to lead it. If, and only if, he may ascend to the commanding heights by golden chariot will this bold new Promethean figure grace us with his presence.

"If you look at the city and its crisis, I just don't know if another politician is the answer for the City of Buffalo and the surrounding area," Wiggle said. "Business has been largely ignored by the politicians, and I think that's a critical mistake." Yep, business does it better. Everyone knows that the landed gentry here in WNY is NOT political. Once upon a time they just controlled the political process with money. Now they ARE the political process. They control the control board. No more Jim Pitts to point the finger at! As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for!

Masiello disappointed

Masiello, who has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term, said he is disappointed by the apparent desertion of a business community that has always supported him in the past but that rarely contacts him now.

Lonely? Looking for a date? Tony needs to pick up a copy of Artvoice.

"It's very clear they're looking for another candidate, but I can make a case with them and everybody else," Masiello said. Wow, does he sound like an over the hill porn star, or what?

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, who has been informally campaigning for mayor for several years, said he will prove to the business community and other factions that he will be a "pro-growth, pro-business Democrat" even as a traditional politician.

"I won't be a yes man to anyone, including the unions or the Partnership," he said. "But if either organization is looking for a seat at the table, there will be two seats at the table." Sam’s his own man, and he’s not black, either.

State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, another potential candidate from traditional politics, also seeks a more "businesslike approach" to city governance. But he has not given up on the political system, saying that it is "time to stop pointing fingers and assigning blame." Uhh, Byron? They said it was time to stop pointing fingers when they were caving the Council and running Pitts out of town. By the year 2005, it might be time to find another black person to blame for everything.

"When we get to another mayoral election, I don't know that it will be the business community by itself that will decide it," he said. "The community at large will make the decision about the type of person they want to see as the next mayor of the City of Buffalo." The community at large is still largely influenced by the race-baiting editorials of The Buffalo News, though.

The proactive approach of the business community has worked in cities such as Cleveland, according to Rudnick, who calls it a worthwhile "test" that will determine who is interested. Rudnick said, "I think there are even folks in the more traditional political process who say that what we have now is broken down."

Of course it’s broken down, Andy! You, Wilmers, and Lipsey made sure of that! You wanted complete control. Now there’s no one left to blame. You can continue to extract as many pounds of flesh from the fire, police, and teachers as you want to but the patient is beyond critical condition, at this point. The U.S. Cavalry is not about to come over the hill anytime soon. The Governor’s “Casinos for Kids” campaign may prove that even the science of public relations has a frontier. That leaves only yourselves to blame for blocking outside players like Golisano, while pumping a money well that is dessicated, to say the least. What did they do with whorehouses in the old days, when the company closed the mine?

If any of the prospective mayoral candidates mentioned in Mr. McCarthy’s article have the answer to that question we’d have at least have a different kind of discussion about our community; one that is honest about what has brought us into this abyss and who is truly responsible for it.

Until then, we’ll continue to have local political stories like this that provide no insight, but plenty of unintended comedy.

HSBC Arena is one block from The Buffalo News Building at the foot of Main Street. As we approached the entrance of HSBC Arena we saw that union folks were picketing. It seems that The Buffalo News fired thirty plus pressmen who had fallen victim to the German efficiency of new presses.

How ironic! The Buffalo News and Warren had received a $40 million tax break to buy these new Bavarian presses. It seems that The Buffalo News was magically located in a New York State Empire Zone making them eligible for a major tax break on any capitalization expenditures. (Somebody at The News must be a socialist).

We walked to the entrance. I was excited about the possibility of asking Warren all about these ideas of corporate taxation, corporate death penality and community responiblity. I know Warren is happy about the $40 million profit he gets annually from The Buffalo News.

I wanted to ask him if he would think about investing some of that money in local businesses other than in “Control Board Bob” Wilmers’ M & T Bank. (Warren owns 27 percent of M & T Bank). I wanted to tell Warren to invest in the little guy, not like that Geico (another Warren owned enterprise) deal where again, a magical New York State Empire Zone appeared in Amherst with millions of dollars in tax breaks. This was all in the name of investing and creating jobs for the underprivileged people of Amherst. I told you Warren is a closet socialist!

The HSBC security had told the Union folks that they had to protest on the other side of the street. The sidewalk in front of the HSBC is apparently not public property, despite the fact that the HSBC Arena was built almost exclusively with public funds.

We marched up to the main entrance and we showed our press passes and were directed to the security entrance in the back. At the security entrance a young man, named Ben and a rather attractive security woman again asked for our press I.D. After a brief phone call, Ben escorted us into an elevator. I was excited with the thought of what I would ask Warren; was it true that he sold his interest in the Ambassador Bridge Company? What is it like owning Tastee Freeze? My wife Marie’s first job after graduating magu cum laude in women’s studies from UB was at Tastee Freeze for $1.75 hour in Tucson, Arizona. She cried the day she was fired for mixing up the vanilla and chocolate twists with plain vanilla. She still talks with bitterness about it.

I was lost in my thoughts. When the elevator door opened and we walked into the main corridor, we were escorted to the best seats in the HSBC Arena, the hundred level seats. Instead of the usual sight of the Sabres warming up in a pre-game skate, the main floor was a panorama of candle-lit tables filled food and liquor. This was the Wizard of Omaha’s Emerald City awaiting an army of munchkins ready to pay homage.

We took our seats, with thoughts of the coming spectacle that was before us. I thought of what it would be like to be a voyeur at Caligula’s birthday party and here we were, observing the world of the Buffalo’s privileged boyars paying honor to the owner of The Buffalo News, their voice.

Gabe X. started taking pictures. I noticed a security man with a dog going behind the podium. It was a bomb-sniffing dog. The rink began to fill with guests, Common Council member Richard Fontana, Common Councilpresident Dave (KKK) Franczyk, US Attorney Mike Battle, and, of course, Andy Rudnick.

And then he appeared, Warren Buffett. He was wearing a light gray suit, and a dark color tie. He was at the far edge of the rink. He walked humbly, smiling. I was thrilled! This was going to be my big chance for a major scoop, since we were the only members of the local press. No Artvoice, no Buffalo Spree magazine, no Night Life, No After Six - just Alt Press. It was a given we would get the interview. The man and the dog were getting closer and closer until the dog started sniffing me and Gabe X. For a minute I thought the security officer was going to ask us to leave. But he was friendly enough and so was his dog. They continued their task of sniffing for bombs into the upper decks of the arena. I thought to myself being in one hundred levels had given us credibility.

Warren walked closer into the center of the rink. Then I noticed a well-dressed man with a white beard staring angrily at us. In a minute, a big fat guy jumped over the boards from the rink, into the seats and asked us for our press passes and again we handed them to him. He looked confusingly at them and said ok.

A minute later, a woman in her forties with a bad blonde dye job, a standard business suit, and who from the looks of her had both hit the glass ceiling of careerism and the disillusionment of a longed faded beauty menacingly waved her finger toward us, calling us over to edge of the rink.

Smiling, I approached her and began to introduce myself. Before I could get a word out, she demanded to see our credentials and again we handed them over. At this point everyone in the rink was staring at us. I was hoping that Warren, the man of the people would come over to see what is was all about. Surely, he would not allow for the same sort of disdain and mistreatment of the press associated with the Bush Administration.

I pulled out my tape recorder. She said our pass credentials were not good and that this was a private party, invitation only, no press and we would have to leave. I began to interview her. She reacted with fear. She said her name was Dottie Gallagher and that she was a vice-president of the Buffalo News, before I could continue, the big fat guy tried to grab my recorder. A scuffle ensued as a gentle bossanova wafted over the P.A. I explained to the guy that it was inappropriate to touch me and that I was with the press. He responded that he was going to arrest me for trespassing. I explained that we were given permission to be there from three security persons and were leaving as per Dottie’s request.

Warren never came over. As I walked out of the one hundreds level seat area into the corridor I explained to the big idiot for his own good that he should not touch people. He continued to threaten me with arrest, a true child of homeland security at its dumbest. I thought of Warren and of what would never be.

We walked outside into the evening light. The pressmen and their supporters were still there. A union should never give up.

How ironic! The Buffalo News and Warren had received a $40 million tax break to buy these new Bavarian presses. It seems that The Buffalo News was magically located in a New York State Empire Zone making them eligible for a major tax break on any capitalization expenditures. (Somebody at The News must be a socialist).

We walked to the entrance. I was excited about the possibility of asking Warren all about these ideas of corporate taxation, corporate death penality and community responiblity. I know Warren is happy about the $40 million profit he gets annually from The Buffalo News.

I wanted to ask him if he would think about investing some of that money in local businesses other than in “Control Board Bob” Wilmers’ M & T Bank. (Warren owns 27 percent of M & T Bank). I wanted to tell Warren to invest in the little guy, not like that Geico (another Warren owned enterprise) deal where again, a magical New York State Empire Zone appeared in Amherst with millions of dollars in tax breaks. This was all in the name of investing and creating jobs for the underprivileged people of Amherst. I told you Warren is a closet socialist!

The HSBC security had told the Union folks that they had to protest on the other side of the street. The sidewalk in front of the HSBC is apparently not public property, despite the fact that the HSBC Arena was built almost exclusively with public funds.

We marched up to the main entrance and we showed our press passes and were directed to the security entrance in the back. At the security entrance a young man, named Ben and a rather attractive security woman again asked for our press I.D. After a brief phone call, Ben escorted us into an elevator. I was excited with the thought of what I would ask Warren; was it true that he sold his interest in the Ambassador Bridge Company? What is it like owning Tastee Freeze? My wife Marie’s first job after graduating magu cum laude in women’s studies from UB was at Tastee Freeze for $1.75 hour in Tucson, Arizona. She cried the day she was fired for mixing up the vanilla and chocolate twists with plain vanilla. She still talks with bitterness about it.

I was lost in my thoughts. When the elevator door opened and we walked into the main corridor, we were escorted to the best seats in the HSBC Arena, the hundred level seats. Instead of the usual sight of the Sabres warming up in a pre-game skate, the main floor was a panorama of candle-lit tables filled food and liquor. This was the Wizard of Omaha’s Emerald City awaiting an army of munchkins ready to pay homage.

We took our seats, with thoughts of the coming spectacle that was before us. I thought of what it would be like to be a voyeur at Caligula’s birthday party and here we were, observing the world of the Buffalo’s privileged boyars paying honor to the owner of The Buffalo News, their voice.

Gabe X. started taking pictures. I noticed a security man with a dog going behind the podium. It was a bomb-sniffing dog. The rink began to fill with guests, Common Council member Richard Fontana, Common Councilpresident Dave (KKK) Franczyk, US Attorney Mike Battle, and, of course, Andy Rudnick.

And then he appeared, Warren Buffett. He was wearing a light gray suit, and a dark color tie. He was at the far edge of the rink. He walked humbly, smiling. I was thrilled! This was going to be my big chance for a major scoop, since we were the only members of the local press. No Artvoice, no Buffalo Spree magazine, no Night Life, No After Six - just Alt Press. It was a given we would get the interview. The man and the dog were getting closer and closer until the dog started sniffing me and Gabe X. For a minute I thought the security officer was going to ask us to leave. But he was friendly enough and so was his dog. They continued their task of sniffing for bombs into the upper decks of the arena. I thought to myself being in one hundred levels had given us credibility.

Warren walked closer into the center of the rink. Then I noticed a well-dressed man with a white beard staring angrily at us. In a minute, a big fat guy jumped over the boards from the rink, into the seats and asked us for our press passes and again we handed them to him. He looked confusingly at them and said ok.

A minute later, a woman in her forties with a bad blonde dye job, a standard business suit, and who from the looks of her had both hit the glass ceiling of careerism and the disillusionment of a longed faded beauty menacingly waved her finger toward us, calling us over to edge of the rink.

Smiling, I approached her and began to introduce myself. Before I could get a word out, she demanded to see our credentials and again we handed them over. At this point everyone in the rink was staring at us. I was hoping that Warren, the man of the people would come over to see what is was all about. Surely, he would not allow for the same sort of disdain and mistreatment of the press associated with the Bush Administration.

I pulled out my tape recorder. She said our pass credentials were not good and that this was a private party, invitation only, no press and we would have to leave. I began to interview her. She reacted with fear. She said her name was Dottie Gallagher and that she was a vice-president of the Buffalo News, before I could continue, the big fat guy tried to grab my recorder. A scuffle ensued as a gentle bossanova wafted over the P.A. I explained to the guy that it was inappropriate to touch me and that I was with the press. He responded that he was going to arrest me for trespassing. I explained that we were given permission to be there from three security persons and were leaving as per Dottie’s request.

Warren never came over. As I walked out of the one hundreds level seat area into the corridor I explained to the big idiot for his own good that he should not touch people. He continued to threaten me with arrest, a true child of homeland security at its dumbest. I thought of Warren and of what would never be.

We walked outside into the evening light. The pressmen and their supporters were still there. A union should never give up.

“Everything they’re doing is the opposite of what they should be doing,” Jim Speyer, President of Local 261 told Alt. “We’re not against technological innovation. We wanted to work together with management to create a win-win situation.”

Instead, The News has given its own workers no resort but to picket an event intended to be a celebration of The Buffalo News’ commitment to the community.

“We have, I believe seven charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board. The way they can fulfill their quota of people, we feel is wrong,” Speyer said noting that The News is not retaining the pressmen’s jobs even though Empire Zone grants are intended to promote job retention and growth. “Their filling the void with management,” he said.

Speyer, also pointed out that while Western New Yorkers have been bombarded with “glowing and rose colored” reports of the new presses and the makeover at The Buffalo News, many people are unaware of the fact that forty workers have lost their jobs and more workers will be cut through attrition.

“I don’t understand it myself, Speyer said, “You’ve got fifty million dollars, most of it government money going into this renovation and you’re firing forty workers.”

Alt Publisher Joe Schmidbauer’s attempt to interview Buffalo News Chairman Warren Buffett about this and other anti labor positions promoted by the monopoly daily newspaper was not successful.

Fun Facts

One of the ways The Buffalo News achieved one of the highest profit margins of any newspaper in the country was by avoiding basic investments like the one represented by the purchase of modern presses. How did they avoid it? Easy, the News enjoyed a monopoly. Also, the company received over thirty-three million dollars in subsidies from the Empire State Development Corp. for the expansion. Why was The News handed this gift? Because the editorial staff at The News has taken advantage of its monopoly by brokering political power. Think of it as a little thank you note from Gov. George Pataki.

The monopoly newspaper is the property of Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn is controlled by the second richest human on the planet, Warren Buffett. Since Berkshire acquired a 25% interest in local banking megalith, M&T bank, the editorial staff appears to have favored the Republican politics of M&T Bank President “Control Board Bob” Wilmers.

Mr. Wilmers’ road map for the community appears to be taking us off the edge of a precipice as the City of Buffalo has been forced into abject penury, with the Buffalo Board of Education clinging to the rear bumper. Soon to follow, if things go according to schedule, will be the unions of the teachers, firemen and police.

Who’s On Top?- Journalism and The Missionary Position

Somehow, all of these fun facts seemed to escape Professor Coppola’s attention. From the vantage point of his secure ivory tower in Olean, The Buffalo News must be above and beyond critical scrutiny, so much so that it deserves an infomercial. In journalism textbooks the firewalls between journalists and powerful financial entities are secure. In the real world there’s this thing called public relations that obliterates such abstract distinctions.

Coppola asked Buffett what, in his opinion, makes a good newspaper. Buffett said, in summary, “It really depends on who’s on top and what their goals are.”

The goals of the people on top at The Buffalo News obviously harmonize with the goals of the people on top of our political caste system. The same politicains representing the same powerful interests run virtually unopposed year after year with glowing endorsements from The News, year. This political caste system has proven to be a failure and yet we're celebrating the “success” of The Buffalo News.

In his interview with Margaret Sullivan, the Managing Editor of The News, Coppola made Today show host Katie Couric look like a pit bull. “Everyday we have something we call a focus story and that is our effort to provide something you can't get anywhere else in any other medium. You're not going to get it on the internet. You probably won't get it on local TV or in Business First or Artvoice or in any of the other publications that are out there.”

Rather than question this attack on competitors for advertising dollars, Coppola served up a marshmellow question about the wondrous “enterprise reporting” stressed by The News, suggesting that The News is the only outlet for investigative reporting in Western New York.

If promoting people like Masiello, Giambra, George Pataki, Victor Rice, the Rigases, and “Control Board Bob” Wilmers qualifies as “enterprise reporting”, then perhaps The News does have an edge over the competition.

If defending corrupt, anti-democratic institutions like: the Empire State Development Corporation, the State Dormitory Authority, the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the New York State Power Authority under Louis Ciminelli, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the public benefit corporations at Roswell Park and now ECMC, and of course our latest dead weight, the Fiscal Stability Authority and the Joint School Construction Authority is “enterprise reporting” then we're happy to cede that territory to The News , as well.

News You Can Use Or Getting Used?

It’s all about news you can use. Sometimes it’s about getting used by The News. You would think that an institution as powerful as The News would be able to afford the cost of its own infomercial. Surprisingly, at the end of this PBS program we were shocked to learn that this nice little propaganda piece was paid for by “viewers like you.”

If that’s true, then there must be a lot other people who think that with his six figure salary, it’s about time that WNED Chairman Don Boswell stopped using precious local programming dollars to support a monopoly business enterprise with a vicious anti-labor, anti-democratic agenda.

The story began in April, 2003, in an ordinary press release from CSCDynCorp. The company proudly announced the award of a State Department contract worth up to $50 million in the first year. In return for this remarkable amount of money, CSCDyncorp was to provide 1,000 civilian advisors “to help the government of Iraq organize effective civilian Law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies.” These civilian advisors qualifications were extensive indeed, with years of law Enforcement experience, impeccable resumes and excellent health, among others. The ability to speak English was a requirement for applicants, but there was no mention of Arabic. Curious. It appears that they’re still hiring. As you go down the list of qualifications, CSCDyncorp lists one that is even more curious: “we are seeking applicants with two years experience in specialized skills.” For a contract length of one year, the pay for the top prospects is $153. 600.00.

As the Abu Ghraib abuse story broke in earnest, two Private Military Companies (PMC) came to the fore as well: Titan Corp and CACI International. Both companies provide private interrogators or linguists. Then another Press release caught my eye. It was issued by the CACI International back on February 2, 2004. It read in part: “CACI International announced today that CACI Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. J.P. (Jack) London was selected by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah to receive the distinguished Albert Einstein Technology Award…It was presented by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski at a ceremony held at the Jerusalem City Hall on January 14, 2004…”

Other than belated congratulations to Dr. London, so what? The Press Release gushed on: “The ceremony was part of the first annual Defense Aerospace Homeland Security Mission of Peace to Israel and Jordan…the purpose of the mission was to promote opportunities for strategic partnerships and joint ventures between US and Israeli defense and homeland security companies…CACI works directly with the US Department of Defense and the Intelligence community…demonstrating expertise in systems integration, secure network services, intelligence services…and knowledge management.”

Death Squads and counter-insurgency.

After the Fall of Baghdad, American officials claimed that hard-core cells of Baathists were behind the escalating guerrilla war against the coalition. De-Baathification was at the heart of the American strategy for stability in a post-Saddam Iraq, so clearly these people had to go, so much more if they were killing US troops. The Pentagon put together Task Force 121, recruiting from Delta Force, Navy Seals, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and their paramilitaries. Task Force 121 was to capture or assassinate Baathists insurgents. There were, however, several problems.

According to The New Yorker, one Pentagon official said: “The problem with the way the US has been fighting the Baathist leadership is we’ve got no intelligence, and we’re too squeamish to operate in this part of the world.” Another former intelligence officer asserted, “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”

The US military first turned to an old enemy for help, Saddam Hussein’s infamous secret police, the Mukhabarat. The irony here is just as infamous, the Mukhabarat kept the former dictator in power, murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis over the years. The Sunday Times interviewed a ten-year veteran of the Mukhabarat, Mohammad Abdullah, who confirmed that he has been working for CIA since last May, for $700 dollars a month. He was quoted as saying that, “…dozens of former officers have already been recruited…they need us. The Mukkhabarat was one of the best security organizations in the world.”

What the former enemies could deliver was who, what, and where of those who were most likely to be actively engaged in resistance against the Americans. Task force 121 could therefore execute them or snatch them up for later interrogation.

In the best tradition of life in shadowy, double-cross, don’t trust anyone but the man with the money. Abdullah still confessed his loyalty to the fallen Hussein, but found it easy to accept his new reality: $700 a month in Baghdad, in cash, no doubt.

With former members of Saddam’s secret police now on the payroll, and task Force 121 organized, we turn out attention back to Israel.

Last winter, The Guardian printed a story disclosing that members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had sent “urban warfare specialists” to Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of US Special Forces. Special Forces are primarily known for its work in counter-insurgency. The story reported that Israeli advisers were helping US Special Forces in setting up “assassination squads” against guerrilla leaders. But a well-informed source in Washington went a step further: “Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for providing consultations.” Other sources confirmed Israelis inside Iraq, but IDF officials would not confirm or deny saying: “Does it affect Iraq? It’s not in our interest or the Americans’ interest or anyone else’s interest to go into that. It would just fit in with jihadist prejudices.”

And just last week, The Globe and Mail ran a story quoting Eugene Bird, a former American diplomat who stated: “We know that the Israeli intelligence was operating in Baghdad after the war was over. The question should be, ’were there any foreign interrogators among those that were recommending very, very, bad treatment for the (Abu Ghraib) prisoners?’” It should be noted that Bird has strong ties to the Palestinian cause. It also should be noted that a pro-Israeli lobby protested the item, forcing a “clarification” and, “..noting that there was no evidence that Israeli complicity existed.”

Another Israeli military intelligence officer summed up the lessons taught: “How to do targeted killing, which is very relevant to the success of the War (in Iraq), and what the United States is going to have to do.” The Americans were being told to duplicate the work of Israeli Army commando units called “Mist’aravim.” These units operate undercover inside the Gaza strip and the west bank, killing Hamas leaders or potential suicide bombers.

The Special Forces operation is known as preemptive man hunting. But some planners inside the pentagon fear such an operation might have turned into a modern day Phoenix Operation. From 1968 to 1972, the operation was designed to capture or kill Vietnamese sympathetic to the Viet Cong, and Viet Cong leaders themselves. The US claimed more than 20,000 killed out of the more than 60,000 captured. South Vietnamese officials numbered more than 40,000 executions. Those tortured for information remain unknown. Phoenix did work, up to a level. However, William Colby, who took over the running of Phoenix in 1968 admitted that “a lot of things were done that should not have been done.”

Death Squads became notorious once again during the 60’s and 70’s. Officers from various Central American banana republics, engaged with “leftists guerrillas’, were trained at the infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. “Leftist guerrillas” included innocent men, women, children, labor leaders, priests, nuns, journalists, and anyone who was opposed to the notion of mass murder.

Both programs did eventually come out from under the government rocks where they were hiding. But the Pentagon may have found a way around unwanted curiosity. Private Military Companies are hired by the Pentagon, and remain unaccountable to the Congress. CACA International and Titan are only two of the dozens of corporations providing the thousands of private military contractors (individual mercenaries) working inside Iraq. What better way to conceal their presence, activities and mission than through the murky world of the modern day mercenary? It may be, and probably is, that Jack London of CACI is unaware just who some of the people CACI hires actually are. If the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) wants to conduct Death Squad activity inside Baghdad with its US Allies, what better cover than a private military company?

Last September, The Independent’s Middle East correspondent claimed that 1,000 Iraqi civilians were dying each week, because of widespread lawlessness, or by military action. In such a climate, covert action assassination teams could work unimpeded.

General Taguba’s report talks about “Other Government Agencies (OGA’s) transporting “Ghost Prisoners.” One scenario is CIA agents bundling Iraqis fingered By Saddam’s former secret police, then snatched up by PMC death squads composed of Mossad agents and Task Force 121 operatives and then turned over for interrogation. Reads like a cheap spy novel. But Operation Phoenix was not cheap. And it was not a novel. It happened and may be happening again.

And there are at least 9,000 Iraqi in the hands of the coalition, some of the more high value targets (insurgents) are located in secret prisons so sensitive that no one knows where they are.

Remember those private Israeli contractors and Israeli homeland security types rubbing elbows with CACI International in Tel Aviv just four months ago? One is tempted to call them for a comment. But I’m sure one would not be forthcoming. As the Israeli commando said above: “Its not in anyone’s interests to go into that…”

Shortly after the attacks of September 11, philosopher Jurgen Habermas was asked for his analysis of the implications that the terrorist actions might have on our society. The following comment appears to have been somewhat prescient, especially in light of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority’s treatment of the City’s police and fire:

“The courage, discipline, and selflessness demonstrated by the New York firemen who on September 11 spontaneously put their lives on the line to save others is admirable. But why do they need to be called ‘heroes’? Perhaps this word has different connotations in American English than in German. It seems to me that whenever ‘heroes’ are honored the question arises as to who needs them and why. Even in this looser sense of the term one can understand Bertolt Brecht’s warning: ‘Pity the land that needs heroes.’”

Indeed, after Sept. 11th police and fire departments across the nation basked in the reflected glow of their martyred brethren in New York City. Then along came Jessica Lynch and then Pat Tillman.

Now in Buffalo, downsizing is the order of the day. Police and Fire represent bloated government bureaucracies that are greedily sucking the life out of the City of Buffalo, the former admirers say. Yesterday’s heroes have become today’s targets of opportunity for the Buffalo Club elite that now disdainfully holds the purse strings of government in the form of the City’s so-called “Control Board.”

The Firefighters’ Union President Joe Foley and Vice President Frank Lucca recently discussed the City’s fiscal crisis and the Union’s position with Alt.

“There's an average of about 1600 structure fires a year in the city of Buffalo and we respond to about 33,000 calls in a year,” Lucca said. “For the plan for the reorganization of the stations, the Masiello Administration didn't bother to consult the Fire Dept,” he said, “This was done totally without any input from the membership and to me that's a huge mistake. We felt left out.”

He also noted that the membership has already been reduced from a high of 930 firemen down to 687. The Masiello Administration has closed 9 companies so far, almost a quarter of the Fire Department's services. About Masiello, he added that, “His overwhelming concern seems to be financial and not safety.”

Resentment seems to have built up towards both Masiello and County Executive Giambra, since prior to their appointment to the Control Board both Tony Masiello and Former City of Buffalo Comptroller, Joel Giambra cut political deals that placed further burdens on the City's firefighting budget. In 1998, a controversial lease-back arrangement saw the City of Buffalo sell two firehouses to real estate developers and then rent them back.

The deals turned sour as both Harold Schectman and Dreamco Development, owned by Giambra's sister-in-law Rosanne Lettieri failed to pay taxes and utility bills on the properties. The city also spent three million dollars for a fire station on Elmwood and Virginia. Meanwhile, a firehouse in the same vicinity on Jersey St. that was eligible for federal renovation grants was closed. These deals make it difficult for many firefighters to take the Control Board's so-called reform proposals seriously.

“They just said, 'This is what we're doing. You guys figure it out after the fact,'” Foley said of the latest plans. “The politicians can make all the mistakes they want to and nothing seems to happen. When we make a mistake, somebody winds up leaving that fire in a body bag.

In discussing the current campaign against the Firemen as represented by the Republican Control Board’s heavy-handed tactics, Foley reflected on the perceived cynicism of the Bush Administration’s glorification of firefighters and police: “The Bush administration after 9-11 says, ‘We love you guys!’ and then we hear about how important we are to homeland security here in Buffalo on the border with Canada.”

Now over two and a half years after the tragedy of the World Trade Center, badly needed federal homeland security money has yet to materialize. “Unfortunately, the way it was set up, there's ten million dollars for ‘04, but we're only given 16 percent of the money, Foley said, “The Giambra administration has hijacked 8 million dollars that should have gone into the City of Buffalo.”

Essentially, the City Fire Dept. is being cut to the bone, the homeland security money gets picked up by the Giambra Administration. So where’s the money?

“We went down to Albany and Washington and we asked them to find the dollars. They're all being told different figures and different things. It's just a shell game,” Lucca said.

Foley added: “In most states you can go to a website and find out how that money is being spent in your community. Carl Calabrese was sending different information to every office. Any homeland security dollars that come into the City of Buffalo help us because the cuts we're being faced with by the Control Board and the City, it seems that the Fire Dept. is taking the brunt of those cuts. We seem to be doing more under this (homeland security) scenario but we're getting less resources to do it with...We have no new inititatives for training.” City Insurance Fraud

Foley and Lucca also spoke about the failure of the City to honor its medical insurance guarantees to the Union. “What happens is the City doesn't pay bill, pharmacies blacklist the City of Buffalo, we have something like $330,000 in unpaid medical bills, and they won't negotiate with you, They won't pay your medical bills,” Foley said.

“When is somebody going to stand up and do the right thing by us? It's a career. It's a vocation,” Lucca added, “They (the firemen) take the risks that are involved, and now they're being threatened with being laid off? The people on the Control board: Townsend, Faso, and Tobe ask, ‘Why are these guys being protected?’ Because they've risked their lives! That’s why.”

In terms of the Republican elite led by Wilmers and his sidekick Andrew Rudnick, Foley said, “They do nothing progressive for the City. They've done nothing but attack unions. But they don't understand that you can't cut your way to prosperity.”

As always though, the state of the world compels me to overcome both my apathy and the student’s. We are in a war and a couple of times a week on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer I sit through those terrible minutes of silence as pictures of the war dead are shown with only a name, age and rank to describe the humans that have perished. Most are the age of my students. If my students have trouble making sense of, or caring to make sense of, the global state of affairs, could these young men and women in the armed forces have been any different? Didn’t they just enroll, grumble, go where they were told, grumble, do what they had to do, and grumble some more, just like many of my students? Yet, those young faces would never come home to Mom’s house laden with laundry and many of those young faces would never appear in family photo albums holding their first born.

End of semester and the obligatory final speeches. I have asked that students pick a topic that they care about. Throughout the semester I have insisted that they do care about issues as a result of life experiences and that, in sharing, they can influence us all. Of course, I realize that this sentiment acknowledges the experiences of those who have been “born again,” come to believe that abortion is the murder of the innocent, and other such issues that can not be the effective topic of a five to seven minute persuasive speech. One boy has chosen the topic “Why we should support the troops.” Yet, despite the empty rhetoric in his title, he successfully defines who the troops are and what he means by “support.”

During the next class another student hides her main agenda behind a speech entitled “A history of the Marines,” but she succeeds in influencing the way we all view the current war. She allows the students to ask questions of, and see the hallow sadness of a young Marine sniper who has seen action in Iraq and truthfully tells the class that “no one knows what we are doing there any more.”

The young Marine tells us a moving story about the crowds of Iraqi people who gather around the vehicles as the servicemen enter the town: “They try to give us food. We take it, but of course we wouldn’t eat it. There are a hundred of them. It’s just that sometimes someone in the back of the crowd takes out an AK- 47 and starts shooting at us. What can we do? Shoot everyone in every crowd?” He asks this question as a school child would, as if there is a simple answer, and if someone could just give it, then he could sleep at night.

The young man states that he has no regrets. He states that his main frustration is that “his guys” are still there. And that he would go back again.

Our next speech is against capital punishment. The final argument is that the Bible says “thou shall not kill.” The class is silent. I am silent. I have just heard a report on the radio regarding President Bush’s own experience of being born again. How it is the moving force behind his leadership; how a phrase something like “for one greater than us all” is the motto of his leadership. How he has pictures hanging in the oval office to represent this inspiration. Yet he, and other leaders before him who professed great belief in the laws of the Bible, have killed, whether by bomb or sanction or inattention.

I know there is an answer here. I know there are just and unjust wars. But I cannot answer. Someone says “then what are we doing in Iraq?” And the class ends.

The filing of the lawsuit comes after an investigation by the Attorney General's Public Integrity Unit, and after the issuance of an audit by the Erie County Comptroller. The comptroller's audit identified significant overcharges in the county's furniture contracts.

Lawyers for the Public Integrity Unit analyzed documents obtained in the case and conducted a series of interviews in recent weeks. State lawyers also met with lawyers for both the company and the county on May 7th.

On May 10th, a private law firm hired by the county announced a similar lawsuit against the furniture vendor. However, by law, the county's action "is transferred to and becomes absolutely vested" in the state upon commencement of the state's action.

Spitzer said he appreciated the fact that the county had taken action, but he maintained that the state is best suited to handle the matter. In addition to saving the county legal fees, the involvement of the Public Integrity Unit, which has a lengthy record of investigating procurement fraud across the state, ensures an arms'-length handling of the matter.

Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra said: "To protect taxpayers, we need the most appropriate public attorney to pursue this matter. I have been advised that the Attorney General's lawsuit seeks the same relief as the lawsuit Erie County already filed. I have therefore instructed the Erie County Attorney to withdraw the county's lawsuit. A court will decide the facts of this case fully and fairly."

The investigation and lawsuit are being handled by Carrie H. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Public Integrity Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Alvin Bragg.

Ostrowski is former chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Erie County Bar Association and was co-counsel in a federal court lawsuit which led to improvements in conditions at the then-overcrowded Erie County Holding Center. He regularly represents prisoners in habeas corpus cases and lawsuits complaining about prison conditions. He won an important ruling from the U. S. Court of Appeals in 1997 establishing that prisoners have a right to privacy in their medical records.

About recent apologizing over the mistreatment of prisoners, Ostrowski said, “Republican concerns over the humane treatment of prisoners is a recently acquired taste. Conservative Republicans consistently decry giving legal rights of prisoners in the United States and have passed legislation to restrict their right of access to the courts through habeas corpus and prisoners’ rights lawsuits. They have done little or nothing about the problem of male rape in prisons, a sickening and widespread epidemic. Republicans are more likely to joke about inmate rape—as they did about Martha Stewart--than to do anything constructive about it. So, forgive me for thinking that these recent apologies are contrived to save careers rather than being based on genuine concern for human rights.”

The scandal over mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq occurred after publication of the book; however, in a passage concerning the crimes of communism, Ostrowski prophetically takes conservatives to task for their well-known callousness regarding the rights of the accused and the treatment of prisoners. In the book, Political Class Dismissed, Ostrowski lampoons the prevailing Republican conservative notion that prisoners are coddled. In an essay originally published in December, 2000, reviewing The Black Book of Communism, Ostrowski wrote:

A certain type of conservative would have approved of the communist legal system. There were no lawyers to speak of, except in graveyards; no criminal lawyers “getting people off”; no “ambulance chasers”; and no namby-pamby civil rights lawyers filing suits over prison conditions. Habeas was a corpse. Communist prison reform consisted of cleaning out the raw sewage from tiny prison cells at least once a month. Knee-jerk lawyer-bashing conservatives would have loved it there—right up until the moment when government agents broke down their doors in the middle of the night, arrested them for some imaginary crime, locked them up and tortured them until they not only confessed to the imaginary crime but asked for forgiveness and literally thanked the government for prosecuting them, minutes before they were taken out, without appeal, put up against the nearest wall, shot and buried in an anonymous grave, while their families were sent a bill for the bullets.

James Ostrowski is the author of over eighty published articles, including a 1989 Cato Institute report, “Thinking About Drug Legalization,” that, according to Google, is currently the most popular article on “drug legalization” in the world.

From the cover: “Political Class Dismissed is an unrelenting assault on America’s (and Buffalo’s) political class: the people who have seized political power and used it to advance their own private interests—domestic and foreign—at our expense.”

Political Class Dismissed contains fifty essays which range widely over the current issues of the day, including the decline of Buffalo, the bloated federal budget, the 9/11 attacks and the mess in Iraq. The essays on 9/11 and Iraq are virtually prophetic and presage the two current topics in the news: the cause of 9/11 and the debacle in Iraq.

IRAQ WAR

On the Iraq War, quickly turning into another Vietnam, here’s what Ostrowski had to say before the war began:

The combined impact of all the prior “good wars” that “we won” utterly failed to bring peace and harmony to the world. Quite the contrary. Excuse me for thinking that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will likewise fail. [229]

More force is always the answer. (What’s the question?) So the U.S. will go to war again over Iraq (maybe). It’s because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and may want to use them. That’s the official reason. The actual reasons are oil, Israel and imperialism. [226]

After the war began, Ostrowski wrote:

That the same government that daily deprives me of the freedom I was born with, is going to liberate the Iraqis is a sickening lie. And, being mindlessly trumpeted by the media, it’s a scary lie as well. . . . [231]

Roughly rpeaking, Iraqhas three large groups, each located in a diScrete arEa. The Kurds are$in the norti$0the Shiites in the south, and tée SuNnis in the"mitdle.0The Shiites appear to be the$Most popqlous group. Lep&8217;s aSsume for the sake of argument that there i no strong tòadition of limited governme.t in Iraq. Thus, any democracy will be of the relativeli unRestrained viriety. Whichever group is iN chargu will impose"its wéll on the others. The prospects for peace are dim. . . . [232-2s3]

The Kurds, Shiit%s,0and SunnIs sjould each form their own separate repubLigs !nd allow qeople in their domayns the zight to leave or stay and live in freedom. If each of these vould-be republics paid me a One í)llion dodlar consulting fee (Swiss Fgderal Bank, ACcount No. 983570957187) for this advice and followed it, that would be an infinitesimal fraction of the money and lives that will be was4ed tryiog to force these dióparade groups to live together. . . . [236-237]

THE DECLINE OF BUFFALO

The heart of the book is a never-before published, 25,000-word essay explaining the decline of Buffalo over the last forty years. For the first time ever in print, the cause of the decline is explained: a corrupt, self-serving, ever-expanding political class and their numerous greedy allies and special interests.

The machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner city and industrial areas looking like a war zone with abandoned and decaying housing and factories. At night, some neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who in earlier years would have found work in the factories. They ply different trades now. [89]

There is much, much more: Chomsky dissected; the Clintons sent up; FDR debunked; the corporate state explained; Lincoln revealed; Thoreau venerated; Bowling for Columbine reviewed; Pataki and Andrew Cuomo skewered.

About the book, Ostrowski, whose boyhood hero was Thomas Jefferson, said, “I’d like to think that these essays approximate what Jefferson might say had he been around to witness the rise of the monstrous modern state with its corrupt political machines, ceaseless centralization of power and perpetual wars.”

###
It was one of those eureka moments. Bourne was so excited by the age, look, and feel of what Buffalonians called The Rockpile, that he reportedly jumped out of the car and shouted: “This is it!” The movie brought a lot of positive energy and attention to the region and it was a hit at the box office. Other features made in Buffalo’s so-called glory days of filmmaking include Hide In Plain Sight, starring and directed by James Caan, and Best Friends starring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn. Additionally, Planes, Trains And Automobiles (starring Steve Martin and John Candy) utilized Western New York locations, but unfortunately, not much else followed. For years, any inquiries about shooting movies in and around Buffalo were almost always handled by a redoubtable and farsighted woman named Mary Summers, who worked for what was then known as the Buffalo Convention And Visitors Bureau (BCVB). She was not a film person, but was a woman who loved Buffalo and saw to it that anyone asking about the region got reams of information. While working on-air as WIVB-TV’s entertainment reporter, I had numerous dealings with Summers. Frankly, if this were Hollywood, she’d have her own star on the Walk Of Fame.

Jump cut to 2002. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra tells reporters that when he was on the City Of Buffalo Common Council, he had visions of a Buffalo Film Commission. The rise of local film commissions since Giambra’s youthful political years has every region in the country thinking it can be Hollywood for a day, a week, or maybe even a few months. As County Executive, Giambra was determined to inaugurate an area film commission. Working with the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise (a job development and marketing entity funded partially by Erie County and New York State with some private monies included) and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, he got his wish. With $150,000 of county taxpayer seed money, the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission was born. A private-public co-venture, it was to operate out of the BNE’s offices at 665 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, accountable to Giambra’s administration.

A director was hired, the aforementioned Mark Stricklin. He had worked for or had run film commissions in Oregon, Alabama, and Wilmington, North Carolina. That Stricklin knew very little about the Western New York area’s assets – its people, architecture, production facilities (or lack thereof) didn’t seem to be a problem to the group that approved his hiring. He had credentials that impressed.

Since Stricklin’s arrival on the scene nearly two years ago, there have been no major studio productions in Western New York for which he can claim credit. Some context is necessary. There are nearly 200 state, regional, and local film commissions in the U.S., over 300 total around the world, all existing to promote their respective communities. New York State has a Film Commission, and there are six regional commissions: Buffalo Niagara, Rochester Finger Lakes, Capital Saratoga, New York City, Nassau County, and Yonkers. It’s an insular world. Film commissioners know each other. They protect each other’s reputations and watch each other’s backs. They move in the same circles, go to the same conventions, and have what some see as a relatively cushy, often high-paying job. There are terrific perks, not the least of which is worldwide travel. They even have their own association of film commissioners. Of course, since the task is to get films shot in their communities, some secrets are kept. The main problem for film commissioners is that the locals don’t think anything is being done unless they fall over movie stars at the neighborhood brew pub. Every film commissioner to whom I spoke noted that problem. Taxpayers demand bang for their buck.

Basically, the job of these commissions is to highlight their area’s benefits. Most film commissions consist of one or two persons, often only a director and a secretary. Some film commissions are private enterprises; some are government funded. The task is to let filmmakers (studios, production companies, etc.) interested in shooting movies, television series, documentaries, commercials, industrial films in a specific area know what that city, region, or state has to offer. It can be something as simple as the local acting talent pool, to the availability of production equipment, to clearing red tape for permits, to something as complex as financial incentives. Until recently, no states offered tax breaks to production companies. Two recent legislative moves in New Mexico and Louisiana have altered the landscape. Both states are willing to spend large amounts of money and offer tax windfalls to get studios to shoot a movie in their state. Across the border, Canada virtually throws money in the direction of Hollywood, an act that has seen film production mushroom.

New Mexico, Louisiana, and Canada see film production as jobs creation programs. In California, where moviemaking is essentially headquartered, this battle for the filmmaking dollar is seen as fiercely competitive. Although its new governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is an actor and producer, he has no current plans to offer tax breaks to shoot in his home state. Studios and production companies select locations for their movies based primarily on budgetary considerations. However, star and director and even producer egos being what they are, it’s not unheard of to take a movie shoot to Palermo or Paris or Prague because someone connected to the film thinks “it’d be fun” to shoot anywhere but Los Angeles. There’s nothing like a free trip to Rome or even Romania (where the American-themed Cold Mountain was shot) to stroke an ego.

In the United States, the outsourcing of jobs is a contentious presidential campaign issue. For some reason, most people don’t consider movie jobs heading across the border or across an ocean as part and parcel of the larger problem, but it is. In the U.S. Senate, legislation has been debated for years about keeping moviemaking in the United States. Not even actor turned president Ronald Reagan succeeded in compelling studios to shoot in the States. Currently in the Senate, S1637, a jobs bill, is being debated. It includes tax breaks and financial incentives to shoot movies in good old America. It might pass, but whether or not the provisions relating to moviemaking survive is anybody’s guess. Ward Emling, director of the Mississippi Film Office, told me that all movie shoots are purely “business decisions. It’s all about the cost of making the film.”

There has been a huge outcry within the past few weeks over director Ron Howard’s decision to shoot Cinderella Man in Toronto. The movie is about famed American boxer James J. Braddock and stars Russell Crowe (as Braddock), Rene Zellweger, Craig Bierko, and Paul Giamatti. In the U.S. Congress, Rep. Diane Watson and 26 other members wrote a letter on April 5 to MPAA boss Jack Valenti complaining about the shoot. It was as if Mr. Apple Pie himself, the beloved Opie, had turned against his own country. The letter stated that “while we applaud the effort by Universal Studios to tell the triumphant story of James J. Braddock…one of our nation’s greatest boxing heroes, we are deeply concerned…about the hundreds of U.S. jobs affected.” Valenti was quoted as saying that the decision was “influenced by one compelling advantage.” That advantage? Only Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens could stand in for New York City’s Depression-era Madison Square Gardens. Howard and his team began shooting Cinderella Man in Toronto April 19. The truth of the matter is that Howard can hardly be blamed. He’s made 16 other movies in the U.S., many of them location shoots around the country.

I’m sure something in the above paragraph jumped out at you astute readers. Depression-era arena? What about right here in Buffalo? The city itself has streets that could pass for early twentieth century Manhattan, and War Memorial Auditorium is a Depression-era architect’s dream. Which brings us full circle. Did the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission and its director drop the ball? There’s a serious wall of silence about this project at Imagine Entertainment (Howard’s production company) and in film commission circles. One person closely connected to Cinderella Man told me under condition of anonymity that “Buffalo was never really seriously considered.” There was a “list of cities under serious consideration,” places like Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Kansas City for example. Buffalo never made the “short list.” Ironically, Howard has had positive thoughts about Buffalo. In late 1993, he conducted a secret test screening of the movie he had directed entitled The Paper. Only one local media or newspaper outlet even knew he was in town, WIVB-TV. Sources told me about the screening, and I scored an exclusive interview with Howard for my station.

Again, some context is in order. The Jim Carrey star vehicle Bruce Almighty did some background shooting in Buffalo, but the major portion of the production was shot in California. Although he was in charge of the local film commission at the time, Bruce Almighty is a movie for which Stricklin cannot claim credit because the decision to use Buffalo as a back-drop had been made regardless of whether or not there even was a local film commission. Carrey grew up in the Toronto area and recalled his days watching Buffalo television and thought it would be fun to memorialize his youth on-screen. Again, star power. James D. Brubaker, president of physical production for Universal Pictures, a man who’s been in the business for decades and knows his way around a movie set, told me he had high praise for Mary Summers, County Executive Giambra, his executive assistant Tim Clark, and Pat Kaufman, president of the New York State Film Commission, all of whom worked to bring the project to fruition. Unfortunately, Summers is no longer with the BCVB.

However, regarding the issue of Cinderella Man, Kaufman is decidedly prickly. In fact, she was downright shrill and condescending. Both the movie and the resulting negative publicity have irritated a lot of people. From her Manhattan office, she exploded at me when I telephoned to ask about whether or not Buffalo was ever considered for the shoot. Shrieking at the top of her lungs, she said: “IT BELONGED IN NEW YORK CITY.” But when that proved not to be feasible from a budgetary sense or amenable to Imagine Entertainment, she noted that she was aware of “The Aud” and claimed she advised Imagine of its existence. Clearly, Buffalo is in for the fight of its life if it has to compete with New York City for movie productions. Unless Buffalo is specifically wanted for a location, does anybody doubt that New York will get the whole loaf while Buffalo gets the crumbs?

For his part, Stricklin was clueless as to the fuss over the Cinderella Man shoot. He had not heard of Rep. Watson’s letter, the Congressional appeals, or the controversy. A phlegmatic sort, Stricklin refused to answer a number of key questions about the success of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. He did build upon his previous pronouncements that people have to realize that simply because they aren’t seeing movie stars, he isn’t doing his job. But is he doing his job? He initially refused to state his budget or his salary, advising me that I should ask County officials for that information. Calls to the County had been made before talking to Stricklin, but the only return calls were from staffers asking me to clarify my questions. Stricklin approached our interview contentiously, claiming; “I know where you’re going with this.” Obviously, others have challenged the money being spent on a film commission, especially since no concrete results are visible. Again, that old star power bugaboo.

However, by the end of the interview Stricklin did say that his salary was in the “high 60s” and his yearly budget was “$165,000.” He has no staff and has been at his Buffalo post since “July 1, 2002.” Stricklin’s personal web page notes that he “brings over 16 years of film commission/management experience to the Buffalo Niagara region. His efforts have resulted in over $955 million in revenue for Buffalo, Oregon, Wilmington (NC), and Alabama from 1987 to 2003 through the recruitment of over 280 productions. Stricklin served as Director of the Wilmington (NC) Regional Film Commission for almost six years and was instrumental in the start-up of the organization.” Admittedly, Buffalo’s share of the Stricklin pie is very, very small. It should also be noted that in 1993, when he and others organized the Wilmington Film Commission, yearly film and television production revenues in that region were already at $504-million. As commissioner, Stricklin oversaw a dramatic drop in production revenues to around $230-million just before he left in 1999.

Stricklin has publicly stated that he has had success in bringing commercials and independent movies to the Buffalo region. When asked about this, he refused to provide a list of commercials or independent movies that have been shot in WNY as a result of his efforts as film commissioner. Here is what he said: “Where are you going with this? I just don’t like the tone of this call.” When I reiterated that he had said that commercials and films had been shot here and asked again if he could give me some titles and some names of commercials, he replied: “we’ve worked on over a hundred different projects. We’ve completed over fifty projects.” Asked again if he could provide some titles and names of commercials, Stricklin refused, uttering a firm “no.” Later in the interview, I asked him again about commercials and indie films, he haltingly mentioned something about a national commercial for Chevrolet for which he took credit.

The reply to a direct question about his efforts to land Cinderella Man in Buffalo was greeted with a very long silence. Movies can take years, even decades, to go from idea to the screen. In a long slow dance of an answer, Stricklin finally did say that he was familiar with, and had done location plans for, an earlier version of Cinderella Man when he was at Wilmington. But that was then, and this is now.

Commenting on Stricklin’s stint at film commission work in Oregon, a motion picture executive in Los Angeles did not have high praise. Regarding filming on location, he noted that there was a vast gulf between what studios are willing to pay to shoot in a locale and what local entities expect them to pay. Price gouging does not endear Hollywood to anyone’s heart. No helicopter needed for a shot that’s going to last perhaps a minute of screen time is worth paying $25,000 for. It’s a schmoozing kind of world and egos are huge and budgets are tight. Those millions of dollars that studios spend on making movies would be helpful to any community’s bottom line. But service is a two-way street. One studio executive told the Buffalo Alternative Press that he specifically advised Giambra not to hire the peripatetic Stricklin.

The bottom line is that Buffalo has about as much chance at getting a major studio production as any place on the planet. It could happen. But, the process is as much about budgets as it is about location needs. Just because a novel’s set in Buffalo doesn’t mean it will be shot in Buffalo. What works is salesmanship. Film commissioners need to be firebrands. They have to display a little showmanship. It’s a glitzy business. They must be aware of every movie on the slate, every location need, every screenplay in turnaround, every production in play. And this information is definitely available in trade publications and elsewhere. They’ve got to have contacts in the business who they can call and who are eager to call them and work with them. Even making a movie is now part of the can of worms called the global economy. Film commissioners must be one of the most proactive people around. They have to seek the work. Based on conversations with people in the business in Los Angeles, the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission needs to do a better job. Mary Summers had more success than Mark Stricklin.

There’s no denying that Buffalo has assets. After years of reviewing movies and interviewing movie stars, directors, and producers, I can tell you that any film can be shot anywhere. That’s the magic of the movies. There are dynamic vistas here and superb actors and actresses. But Buffalo also has failings that need to be overcome. There isn’t a lot of equipment necessary for shooting major films here. Components have to be trucked in from New York. Empty buildings are a dime a dozen, but at least one sound stage may need to be constructed. 35mm film lab work and sound processing need to be done in state-of-the-art facilities.

But perhaps most vital of all is that the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission needs to get out from under New York City’s shadow. The clubby film commission atmosphere also doesn’t help. Ms. Kaufman comes across as a demon who will scarf up everything for New York City first. Stricklin needs to give Kaufman marching orders, not the other way around. She is not his boss. He is his own boss. He needs to fight for Buffalo tooth and nail. The money’s there. The scripts are there. It’s not just about what’s available. All movies don’t get made in Canada or the Czech Republic. Many are shot across the United States. A great film commissioner can convince a studio executive that a movie shoot must come to their town. At studio headquarters, Buffalo must be made to seem like the perfect economical place to be. That’s how Hollywood works.

Yahya Goba was sentenced to ten years. The Court refused to recommend that he be imprisoned in the federal prison closest to his wife and daughter in Lackawanna. Faysal H. Galab, married with three children, received a sentence of seven years. Former president of his Lackawanna mosque, Sahim Alwan, married, was given nine and one-half years. He had faked an ankle injury so that he could leave the training camp early. The men were charged under the federal anti-terrorism statute with providing material support to al-Quaida which, prior to September 11, 2001, had been designated by the Secretary of State as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The designation was published in the Federal Register, a thick compendium of federal rules and regulations not found on the shelves of most local public libraries. Specifically, the men were charged with providing material support in the form of training. The training consisted of paying for a uniform, attending the training camp where they learned to use weapons, and standing guard duty. The charges against them also specified viewing videotapes concerning the bombing of the USS Cole and speeches by Osama Bin-Laden.

None of the defendants engaged in acts that were, at the time, obviously criminal in nature. It was not until several months after their return from Afghanistan that planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and the United States embarked on its virtually endless “war on terrorism.”

The maximum sentence faced by the men under the charges brought against them was 25 years. All of the defendants were in their twenties when arrested. Each defendant was convicted on the basis of a guilty plea entered into in order to avoid the possibility of receiving the maximum sentence. As part of the plea arrangement, the Government agreed to forego “any right it has to detain the defendant as an enemy combatant...” By raising the potential for such treatment, the Government implicitly threatened to hold the men indefinitely without access to their families or to their attorneys. The Government also insisted as a condition of the plea on a waiver by each defendant of the right to appeal, even if the Supreme Court were later to find the law unconstitutional, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently done. Such pressure tactics, especially in light of the constitutionally suspect character of the law, were unconscionable and should be repudiated by our public officials.

During their plea proceedings, some of the defendants made public admissions of wrongdoing, principally that they had made a mistake. But the mistake was obviously one recognized in retrospect, after the events of September 11, 2001, after their arrests, and after their pre-trial detention. These admissions were made to mitigate the possibility of even harsher punishments, and they were extracted to legitimate a highly dubious prosecution.

The Lackawanna Six were prosecuted in an environment pervaded by fear and hysteria. Their punishments were unduly harsh, and even vindictive. Despite denials by the Court and the prosecution, the crimes alleged against them actually were “thought” crimes. How could Shafal Mosed, for example, have known that by going to the training camp, where he learned more about al-Quaida then he knew before he arrived, that he would be charged criminally with taking action in support of a terrorist organization? How could he have known that learning more about a movement of worldwide political significance was in effect a decision to commit crimes punishable by up to twenty-five years in prison?

When a criminal law implicates important First Amendment concerns, it must be sufficiently clear so as to allow persons of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is being prohibited. A person of ordinary intelligence would not anticipate that “training,” even military-style training, would constitute criminal activity punishable by a lengthy prison term. This was especially true in pre-September 11, 2001 America. How could anyone then anticipate that severe criminal sanctions would flow from obtaining a uniform, attending a training camp and doing guard duty? The most that can be said, and this in hindsight, is that these men exhibited poor judgment. But how can it be criminal to view videotapes of the bombing of the USS Cole or speeches by Osama Bin-Laden when the same material is broadcast over the airways, even on network television?

The potential of our government to use the vague contours of the law to inhibit free speech and associational activities must be rejected. These men were charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Yet how can paying a few dollars for a uniform constitute the provision of material support? It may provide moral support, but how can it be material to the success of the efforts of a terrorist organization like al-Quaida?

As the Supreme Court observed in 1963 in NAACP v. Button, our First Amendment freedoms “are delicate and vulnerable, as well as supremely precious in our society.... Because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive, government may regulate in the area only with narrow specificity.”

The ties that hold our community together are delicate and vulnerable. The prosecution of the Lackawanna Six has torn at the fabric of our community. I hope that it is not too late to repair the damage by restoring the defendants to their families and to the community-at-large. They should immediately be released from federal custody.

Last week out side Ramadi, another insurgent city west of Fallujah, US troops issued two-way radios to the Iraqi forces supposedly supporting them. But the communications rich Americans were not concerned with coordinating movements with their Iraqi allies, they were listening in to know when these so-called Iraqis comrades were tipping off the bad guys inside Ramadi as to the Americans positions. Some Iraqis did more then just tip off insurgents. A Knight-Ridder photographer saw Iraqi ICDC soldiers and Iraqi police mixed in with insurgents who ambushed Marines on two separate occasions. On a grimmer note, some of the renegade Iraqis were wearing US Marine uniforms and body armor.

One senior Iraqi political officer, who refused to be identified, put it bluntly: “It’s a disaster, the entire security situation that the coalition has constructed. The Intelligence service is a joke. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) are implicated in the mutilations of the Americans (in Fallujah). Fifty percent of the ICDC mutinied. Some did their jobs. Some ran away. Some joined Muqtada.”

In the infamous city of Fallujah, some of the insurgents killed by Marines were wearing police equipment. The commander of the 1st Armored Division complained that about 40% of the Iraqi security forces deserted and that about one in ten “actually worked against” US troops.

Any army in the field will tend to leak soldiers during combat operations. But in Fallujah the entire 36th Security Brigade of the Iraqi Defense Corps refused to fight. Based in Baghdad, the 36th was ordered into trucks and moved to Fallujah where they would be used to support the US forces assembling there to attack the city. Ali al-Shamari explained the following mutiny: “They told us to attack the city and we were astonished. How could an Iraqi fight an Iraqi like that? This meant that nothing had changed from the Saddam Hussein days. We refused en masse.” Shamari further complained that the brigade did not know where it was headed until it arrived outside the city.

After the Brigade refused, the mutineers were stripped of their unit patches, and confined to an American base outside the city. Rations were reduced to one meal a day. “ I escaped, but around 200 of our comrades remain there. We demand their release,” Shamari stated.

Prior to its deployment to Fallujah, the brigade had been used to guard facilities and conduct searches. “Suddenly, we were asked to take part in a huge offensive.” Said one unhappy private. The 36th brigade was composed of former Iraqi army soldiers and the Peshmerga, part of the Kurdish militia. The executive director of the Iraq Center for research and Strategic studies observed that putting Sunnis and Kurds together in the same unit is as mistake. They hate each other.

One Kurdish soldier explained,” They were bombing the city with warplanes and cluster bombs. I could not be a part of this.”

The 36th Brigade was not the only Iraqi unit to refuse to fight. Previously, the 2nd battalion of the ICDC was loaded into a convoy, also headed to Fallujah. As it drove through Sadr City, it was attacked by insurgents. The battalion then turned around and head back to their camp northeast of Baghdad. What, if any, punishment they received is not known.

With the handover of power back to the Iraqis looming, it is hard to imagine how the security issue can be resolved. Major General Martin tried to sum up the situation: “It’s very difficult at times to convince them that Iraqis are killing fellow Iraqis and fellow Muslims, because it’s something they shouldn’t have to accept. Over time I think they will have to accept it.”

Dempsey added,” We have to get this latest increase in violence under control. We have to take a look at the Iraqi security forces and learn why they walked.”

She was protesting our nation’s training program in torture and terror techniques which is located at Ft. Benning. This program commonly known as the School of the Americas was responsible for training the assassins who murdered six Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989. As a result the Jesuit community along with other peace activists has held a yearly, non-violent protest at Ft. Benning, with the goal of convincing the American military to abandon this program.

Last year, protesters were informed that they would be punished severely for their act of conscience. After Ms. Gerard and her fellow protesters stepped across the line, our government made good on its promise and sentenced Ms. Gerard and others to three months in federal prison.

After CBS aired photos of American military personnel torturing Iraqi prisoners, it has become apparent to the entire world that the refusal to end our military’s commitment to terror techniques not only makes a mockery of our so-called “War on Terror,” but only serves to perpetuate a cycle of meaningless violence. Ms. Gerard submitted the following letter while incarcerated at the Danbury Federal Penitentiary in Connecticut.) April 19, 2004

The blues and pinks of the early morning sky rested softly above the bluish-gray of the distant hills. Despite the fact that I now reside in a minimum-security federal prison, my world felt serene and hopeful, full of peace and promise. All was calm. I watched an orange globe peer out from behind the hills. I wondered if the whole world might be watching the sun, taking turns throughout the time zones.

But my peaceful world was a bubble that quickly burst and fluttered away. The news was full of explosions, gunfire, violent death and destruction. The Israeli military destroyed the house of a Hamas leader. The bloody fighting in Iraq continued unabated. I was back to a world in which gunshots drown out the melodious twitter of bird songs. The words of U.S. Military personnel, however, were far from melodious. One was quoted as saying something about “violence begetting violence.” I agree completely with that comment. This world’s sad and sorry state is due, in large part, to the anger, hatred, and fear that causes all of that violence to continue, perpetrated by ever- younger participants. When one is killed, there are always many willing replacements. But the military representative wasn’t finished. He proceeded to discuss the value of “controlled violence” in Iraq. Controlled violence? To my ears, that made no sense, whatsoever. Like fire, violence is hard to control. It isn’t something that you can turn on and off like a spigot. The hatred and bitterness instilled in persons whom violence has touched personally don’t magically turn into feelings of love and forgiveness, once hostilities have ceased.

It doesn’t work that way, and it never has. Memories of past cruelties linger for months, years, decades and even centuries. Osama bin Laden is a good example of a never-dying search for revenge. In his world, revenge must be exacted for the bloody excesses of the crusades which occurred hundreds of years ago. In his world the crusades could have happened yesterday. He calls his actions, “revenge for past wrongs.” We call them, “terrorism.”

In my world, violence cannot be controlled, and revenge is pointless. According to one of my favorite books, Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, author Bob Fulghum advises us to apologize when we hurt someone. He also counsels, “Don’t hit people.” In my world “Don’t hit people,” means, don’t launch preemptive wars and justify violence as “controlled.” In my world governments, like individuals, must take responsibility for their actions.

When I chose to force the issue at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was objecting to the U.S. Government training thugs, assassins and dictators in such skills as “psychological operations,” torture, and coups d’etat. The U.S. Government calls its actions, “protection of U.S. Interests.” I call them terrorism. I was objecting to the U.S. Government’s response to mounting criticism of the School of the Americas: a name change to the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” a slick public relations campaign, and lots of denial. Apparently, saying that you’re sorry when you hurt someone never occurred to those who fund and or run SOA/WHINSEC. I have discovered, though, that the U.S. Government objects strenuously to being called to account for its actions. The U.S. Government certainly objected when I called its actions to account.

The government must have believed that it was teaching me a lesson by sending me to federal prison. After two weeks in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, I have learned a lesson, but probably not the one the government wanted to teach me. I’ve learned that the more the government wants to cover up and distract the public from the wrongs it has committed, the more it tries to crush those who expose those wrongs and who seek to confront the government, the bigger its crimes must be.

I’ve also learned that, for the government to effectively crush me, I have to give it my permission to do so. By continuing to write critically of the government’s conduct, I do not give the government permission to crush me.

I do feel, however, that it is the government that so desperately needs to be taught a lesson. It’s the government’s behavior, not mine, that’s out of control. It was just target practice, not a war at home, that I heard today. But the sound of that gunfire reminded me that there is war elsewhere, in such countries as Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Columbia. It reminded me that there are foreign troops being trained by the U.S. Military, both in the United States and abroad. It reminded me that all is not right in this world.

But the pinks, blues, and grays of the early morning sky were a sign of hope. My moment of the quiet peace felt right. I wanted everyone in the world to experience such a moment, free of the fear of serious injury and violent death, inflicted by other human beings. For just a moment, that sort of goal felt attainable. Even after the reality of the world’s violence soaked back into my consciousness, I still felt that it is possible for ordinary people willing to put forth hard work and to make sacrifices to make a difference in this world.

By being willing to confront power with truth and by being willing to resist being crushed by a government that is not yet willing to give up its addiction to violence, it is possi

Alt attended a Bison Scholarship fundraiser a few years ago that, not surprisingly, resembled a Republican Party rally. A black kid was ushered in to sing the national anthem. The theme was separating the wheat from the chaff, a straight forward attack on public education. Each speaker emphasized the need to rescue the worthy kids from these awful public schools - Social Darwinism applied to education. Not a word of support was given to the mission of public schools.

Fast forward to the present: the Buffalo Public Schools are being pushed into bankruptcy as the district must fund new charter schools which have been sprouting up like weeds. The full weight of the Buffalo Club political machine has kicked into high gear behind Chris Jacobs. They've blanketed the City with campaign literature and appear to be behind a "push poll" being conducted by Conquest Communications. a major league Republican political consulting outfit.

The campaign lit from Chris Jacobs is somewhat disturbing for two reasons. The candidate poses with school children in three of the mailers. In two of the pictures he is with children who are exclusively white. In another he is with children who are exclusively black. While we wouldn't accuse Chris Jacobs of racism on this account, it appears obvious that his campaign has opted to exploit segregationist sentiments in hopes of gaining control of the school board. What are we to learn from this?

Chris Jacobs campaign lit appears on the same card stock that was used to support the reduction of the Common Council. That sales pitch promised more teachers firemen and police as a result of the savings accruing from removal of three black common council members. Now it appears that the money was merely transferred into the salaries of the mostly white, unelected Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.

The second, and perhaps more disturbing thing about these campaign photos is how uncomfortable and detached Chris Jacobs appears to be amongst the children. None of the photos depict the sort of affection one sees between a popular teacher and his or her students. Maybe that's because Chris Jacobs didn't come up the ranks as a teacher. He was born into the elite. While he was trained as an attorney, its interesting to note that the University of Buffalo's School of Management is named after the Jacobs family. It appears obvious that the school board aspirations of Chris Jacobs arise not out of some altruistic urge for community service but out of the same motivations of the MBA culture that produced the Savings and Loan scandals in the eighties, the market manipulations of Enron, and finally the presidency of George W. Bush.

Millions of dollars go into public education. Isn't it time to seperate the wheat from the chaff? The success of Mr. Jacobs represents the next chapter in the MBA revolution. And for future reference when referring to Chris Jacobs, it's always Chris Jacobs, never Mr. Jacobs or Chris or Christopher. After wading through some of the vast inventory of Chris Jacobs P.R. this has become quite clear. It's Chris Jacobs, the average, ordinary guy from Buffalo. The Buffalo News will continue to remind its readers of this fact at every available opportunity, to be sure.

Friendly Astro-Turf: The Buffalo School Board election got off to a dubious start as the first open forum with candidates was held at a charter school on Easter Saturday morning. It reminds us of the "open meeting" that settled the fate of the Buffalo Joint School Construction Authority. That early morning meeting was held in East Aurora.

The charter school candidates' forum was also poorly publicized. It helped create the impression that whether candidates were in favor of charter schools or not, the charter school slate of candidates would carry the debate. It's the "done deal" debate all over again. Don't argue, the issue has already been decided. The debate that takes place is not democracy in action, but the kind of window dressing that helps us cling to our belief that as our soldiers fight and die in a foreign land, our own democracy here in WNY is still alive and well. It's not.

Jack Quinn Leaves GOP High and Dry - Republican Congressman Jack Quinn created a furor by announcing that he will not run for Congress this November. Conventional wisdom has it that Quinn was able to hold his seat in the largely Democratic district because he was seen as an advocate for organized labor and because he was Irish Catholic.

By removing himself from the race Quinn has left the Republicans in a lurch. Up until this point, the GOP was focused on protecting the seat left vacant by the retirement of Amo Houghton. Tom Delay crony Tom Reynolds was also facing surprisingly strong opposition in the person of the ex-Republican Akron millionaire, Jack Davis, who started his campaign with $500,000 of his own money. The Quinn news has made a dubious situation that much worse.

None of the candidates mentioned by GOP County Chairman Bob Davis are likely to please the party's extreme right wing currently holding power in Washington. The early frontrunner, Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan will likely run not only on the strength of his celtic DNA, but also on the conviction of the Lackawana Six for which he was a cheerleader. Like we said, dubious.

Prior to Quinn's announcement the only Democrat willing to seriously challenge Jack Quinn was longtime Party stalwart Peter Crotty. Now that there's blood in the water, though, the field of Democrats running has grown exponentially.

Low Intensity Burn: As County Executive Joel Giambra continues to amaze us with his "serious" consideration of a run for Governor, leftover embers from his first term continue to smolder. First and foremost is the Grand Jury investigation into the Aurora garage scandal, which saw Giambra appointees scurrying for cover. Since Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark would like both major Party endorsements, betting money says the Aurora garage problem will disappear.

This leaves the sticky issue of Giambra's campaign manager James Spano allegedly overcharging the County for office furniture from his company, Buffalo Office Interiors. State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's office has been mulling over that situation, but again the rule of thumb with any sort of political corruption is to study your opponent but avoid prosecution. You might pick up some valuable how-to's in case your party finds itself in the same office!

More Phantom Jobs: State Democrats led by the ambitious Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky have again brought attention to the economic development philosophy of the Governor's Empire Development Zones. Government money for phantom jobs is nothing new but the Dems' estimate of $500,000 of government subsidy per actual job created in WNY is. That estimate actually seems kind of conservative to us. In a related note, Certainteed, a PVC manufacturer that might create twenty-five positions will receive 2.1 million dollars in Empire Development subsidies. As reported in our last issue, Certainteed's plan to relocate on Buffalo's waterfront, has angered environmentalists who have pointed to the company's dismal environmental record as evidence that 2.1 million dollars is a price that's too high to pay - even for a potential of twenty-five, part-time, low wage jobs.

Of course, Paul Ciminelli would probably not agree with that sentiment. You see, Mr. Ciminelli is the developer of the Union Ship Canal area that will become Certainteed's new home. Ciminelli received over four million dollars from New York State and three million from the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. He received this taxpayer largess for developing the site, which was designated as a brownfield. The beauty of this deal is that if Certainteed dumps more toxic chemicals

How did you like President Bush coming to Buffalo and being snubbed by Mayor Masiello? Personally I didn’t see anything wrong with “Too Tall Tony” skipping the dog and pony show. Lots of us really enjoyed watching all the puppets sitting on the bar stools surrounding Yale University’s most famous hillbilly. The great occasion could have been a lot better if Control Board Bob Wilmers had served up some of his famous estate bottled wine. Bob looked at the bottom line though and decided it might not be a good investment what with “Dubyah” running for re-election in November. The chief from Amherst really looked impressive in his uniform and it was really cute the way he kept saluting the commander-in-chief. Mike Battle our famous US Attorney General read the cue cards as he had been instructed and caused no waves. Is he related to Condi?

Speaking of being snubbed, how about those Seneca Indians confusing the issue and saying “White man speak with forked tongue,” and then negotiating with Cheektowaga to build a casino on a toxic dump. Either way it wouldn’t be on the tax rolls of either the city or the town so what’s the big deal? Gambling, if it paid the bills would be great and apparently it doesn’t. Just think of the gamble the taxpayers in Buffalo took and all they have to show for their money is a control board that now doles out a miserly allowance that makes the pols believe they’re important.

Remind me to ask Fred Wolfe, Erie County Attorney, if a county executive can open a new or used furniture store specializing in office furniture or would it be better if he were a comptroller. I was going to ask District Attorney Frank Clark but he is apparently very busy pursuing Richard “Cat Shit” Kern so that his office can make Kern disappear into a top hat. By the way Frank how is the investigation going into the forgery problem with that Buffalo City Court Judge. I mean the one that recused herself on that false arrest by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. Semper fi Frank, semper fi and did Skretny really grab you and tell you that you’re losing your magical powers. Good golly gee willikers folks I’m just funning cause we certainly do know that good

· President Bush initially opposed creating the Commission, and only relented (over a year after it was requested) under political pressure from both Democrats and Republicans alike.

· Bush first appointed Henry Kissinger- a career international criminal from Nixon’s “secret end to the war in Viet Nam” years (there are outstanding warrants for him in Europe) and prevaricator- to head the Commission. Immediately Kissinger was forced to resign because of obvious income-related conflicts of interest.

· Bush delayed giving the commission access to Presidential Daily Briefs, only eventually allowing the Commission to take a guarded look at some of those documents and a select few White House-‘approved’ notes, again, only after extended political pressure from both parties. This time, after over two years had passed, they finally released a version of a pre-September 11 (August 6, 2001 to be precise) PDB titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” as credible as Bush’s Air National Guard records were once they finally (and mysteriously illegibly) appeared.

· Bush refused giving the Commission a much needed and repeatedly requested extension to finish its work after White House delays made its original deadline impossible to meet. Then within weeks he just as arbitrarily agreed to one.

· Bush refused to allow National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly or under oath, again giving in only after political pressure forced him to reverse his position.

· Bush has insisted on limiting his own time with the Commission to be as brief as possible, attempting to arrange a meeting only one hour long with just two of the commissioners and NOT UNDER OATH. Bush has now agreed to meet with the whole Commission, but only if Vice President Cheney accompanies him, and still NOT UNDER OATH. This makes his testimony absolutely useless as he’s the most disingenuous, deceiving, dishonest, dissembling president in American history (see Iraqi WMD’s and al-Qaeda connections, UN international agreements, World Trade agreements, the World Court, EPA report edits and forgeries, administration suppressed, distorted, and ignored intelligence, Medicare, his past personal insider stock trading, military record, etc. (for a fuller, more exacting, source-referenced account of this see ‘The Lies of George W. Bush’-David Corn, editor of ‘The Nation’ and ‘Fox News Channel’ contributor, Michael Moore.com, or any of his recent books and publications, Fairness & Accuracy in Media, Bushwatch.com, or the archives of any daily press from the New York Times to the Washington Post, or weeklies like Time and Newsweek)).

· Bush has handed over only 25 percent of the 11,000 pages of documents requested that reveal former President Clinton’s administration’s emphasis on fighting the very terrorists that were responsible for 9/11. Under repeated pressure the White House has relented and agreed to release the remainder of the declassified files into their possession (like Iraq’s UN WMD report) when they’re done with them.


Buffalo Author Publishes Provocative
and Prophetic Book on National
and Local Politics



Buffalo, New York. April 26, 2004. Buffalo attorney and writer, James Ostrowski, will hold a press conference Saturday May 1st at 6:30 p.m., outside the Larkin House at 65 Lincoln Parkway, to discuss the publication of his controversial new book, Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including “What’s Wrong With Buffalo. Following the press conference there will be a reception (invite only) at the historic Larkin House. The reception (7:00 to 10:00 p.m.) will be open to reporters. Books will be provided at the press conference.

James Ostrowski is the author of over eighty published articles, including a 1989 Cato Institute report, “Thinking About Drug Legalization,” that, according to Google, is currently the most popular article on “drug legalization” in the world.

From the cover: “Political Class Dismissed is an unrelenting assault on America’s (and Buffalo’s) political class: the people who have seized political power and used it to advance their own private interests—domestic and foreign—at our expense.”

Political Class Dismissed contains fifty essays which range widely over the current issues of the day, including the decline of Buffalo, the bloated federal budget, the 9/11 attacks and the mess in Iraq. The essays on 9/11 and Iraq are virtually prophetic and presage the two current topics in the news: the cause of 9/11 and the debacle in Iraq.

9/11

“Your government failed you.” Richard Clarke said. James Ostrowski said this first and specified many more reasons than Clarke has. In response to Clarke, Karen Hughes, the President’s spokesperson, said, “Nothing could have been done to prevent 9/11.” While this is utterly false, there’s the important question, as raised by Political Class Dismissed: “The really interesting question for Ms. Rice and the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment is: If these attacks were not foreseeable and not preventable, why─when our nation has not been invaded since Lincoln invaded Virginia in 1861─were you people out and about before September 11th, in a dangerous world, kicking sleeping dogs and using beehives as punching bags?”

As early as November, 2001, Ostrowski warned:

The failures of our foreign policy interventions have not, as one might have expected, been the cause for serious re-evaluation in the corridors of power. Quite the contrary. Our power elites are stirring the pot for massive and unprecedented and dangerous foreign adventures. (Note: all underlined emphasis has been added.)

IRAQ WAR

On the Iraq War, quickly turning into another Vietnam, here’s what Ostrowski had to say before the war began:

The combined impact of all the prior “good wars” that “we won” utterly failed to bring peace and harmony to the world. Quite the contrary. Excuse me for thinking that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will likewise fail.

More force is always the answer. (What’s the question?) So the U.S. will go to war again over Iraq (maybe). It’s because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and may want to use them. That’s the official reason. The actual reasons are oil, Israel and imperialism.

After the war began, Ostrowski wrote:

That the same government that daily deprives me of the freedom I was born with, is going to liberate the Iraqis is a sickening lie. And, being mindlessly trumpeted by the media, it’s a scary lie as well. . . .

Roughly speaking, Iraq has three large groups, each located in a discrete area. The Kurds are in the north, the Shiites in the south, and the Sunnis in the middle. The Shiites appear to be the most populous group. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that there is no strong tradition of limited government in Iraq. Thus, any democracy will be of the relatively unrestrained variety. Whichever group is in charge will impose its will on the others. The prospects for peace are dim. . . .

The Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis should each form their own separate republics and allow people in their domains the right to leave or stay and live in freedom. If each of these would-be republics paid me a one million dollar consulting fee (Swiss Federal Bank, Account No. 983570957187) for this advice and followed it, that would be an infinitesimal fraction of the money and lives that will be wasted trying to force these disparate groups to live together. . . .

So the warmongers who got us into a big mess, and whose egos and power lust will not allow us to get out of it, now resort to their old ploy—one that Goering described— that last refuge of a scoundrel: challenging the patriotism of the opponents of war to blind the people into continuing to support an unnecessary war that is killing Americans and stirring up anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.


JUDICIAL SELECTION

On another current story in the news—the selection of judges, Jim Ostrowski anticipated this issue by 27 years. The corrupt process by which New York selects its state trial judges has been in the news of late and is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Brooklyn, a lawsuit in which Ostrowski may testify. In Political Class Dismissed, Ostrowski describes his own efforts to reform the system—in 1977!

“At these conventions, the party hacks are told for whom to vote, and they do so, often mispronouncing the unfamiliar names of the candidates written on a slip given to them at the meeting. A recent series in the Buffalo News made public what had previously been an open secret: state judgeships usually go to those who contribute the most money to the local party chairman. So it is that state trial judges are selected in New York. It’s enough to give you butterflies in your stomach.”

What separates this book from other attacks on over-politicized state courts is that the author, a veteran of twenty years of litigation, does not spare the vaunted federal courts. In discussing a case where he was falsely charged with contempt of court by a politically-powerful law firm, Ostrowski writes:

“Violating the ancient rule that no one should be the judge of his own cause, [a federal judge] killed the deposition that, I believe, would have established grounds to prove him a liar and have him removed from the bench. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of how our vaunted federal courts “work.” What it came down to was raw power; might makes right; their army was bigger than mine.

“The notion that [federal] judges who were themselves politicians, who are recommended by politicians (the party chairmen) to please their contributors, appointed by a politician (the President), and confirmed by still more politicians (the Senators), are or can be apolitical is one of the grand myths of American government. It is nonsense.”

“In addition to overt corruption, there is a more sinister and largely invisible form of corruption that only close observers of the courts can discern. Judges in a democracy tend to be political animals. It matters not whether they are elected or appointed. The notion that appointed judges are apolitical is a fantasy entertained mainly by naïve and self-appointed “court reformers.” In truth, the politics involved in appointing judges is usually more covert and insidious than that involved in electing judges. The public rarely learns about why judges were appointed. Who pulled what strings? Who owed what to whom? Who will owe what to whom in the future? Even politically astute lawyers often do not know the answers to these questions.”

CHURNING LEGAL FEES

Ostrowski exposes a little-known scam whereby local politicians funnel huge sums of money to big law firms to defend them in lawsuits that could easily have been settled. Multiple firms are hired; cases drag on for years, earning the firms hundreds of thousands of dollars:

In days of yore, lawyers were critical to the fight for liberty, justice and individual rights. Twenty-four signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers. Now, many lawyers, who could otherwise use their savvy to expose and battle the corrupt machine, have been bought off with large retainers.

MARTHA STEWART

Political Class Dismissed features two trenchant articles on the persecution of Martha Stewart.

As I wrote last August on Mises.org, Martha Stewart was not guilty of insider trading; she was “guilty” of outsider trading, which is perfectly legal. Nevertheless, she was investigated by people who are virtually immune from suit. They investigate, prosecute and ruin lives because they can get away with it. Martha did commit a serious crime during the investigation. She refused to be intimidated; she refused to grovel; she refused to take a plea. The feds can’t stand it when anyone stands up to them. It’s an attitude they copped after the Confederates kicked them out of Charleston harbor in 1861.

On December 1st, 2003, Ostrowski wrote:

Martha Stewart goes on trial in January for allegedly lying about committing the imaginary crime of outsider trading. All that stands between her and oblivion is a jury of twelve citizens drawn from the liberal-Democratic Southern District of New York. This is an opportune time to review the role of juries in protecting us from tyranny.

. . . Second, juries are now packed with people who make a living from government work [Note: the lead juror worked for the feds] or depend on the government for much or all of their income. Expect such jurors to instinctively identify with the prosecution. . .

. . . Servile juries generally convict those charged with violating the numerous imaginary crime laws, the enforcement of which underlays the welfare/warfare state. Instead of restraining state power; they often endorse it. Can we now add juries to the list of mechanisms to limit the power of the state that have been perverted into rationalizations for ever-increasing tyranny?

Martha Stewart. Good luck in January. You will need it.

INCOMPETENCE OF THE FBI

Timing is everything. Everyone now blames the FBI for failing to follow up on leads that could have prevented 9/11. Who slammed the FBI 27 days before 9/11?:

“The FBI is a case study in how government agencies, programs and powers expand regardless of poor performance.” “The History of the FBI”, from Political Class Dismissed. (originally published August 15, 2001)


THE DECLINE OF BUFFALO

The heart of the book is a never-before published, 25,000-word essay explaining the decline of Buffalo over the last forty years. For the first time ever in print, the cause of the decline is explained: a corrupt, self-serving, ever-expanding political class and their numerous greedy allies and special interests.

The machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner city and industrial areas looking like a war zone with abandoned and decaying housing and factories. At night, some neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who in earlier years would have found work in the factories. They ply different trades now.

ON GEICO COMING TO BUFFALO

The Geico story perfectly illustrates how the corporate state operates. A huge insurance company gets special favors from big government so that it can get even bigger. The politicians smile for the cameras; their tangible rewards will come later and you won’t hear much about them.

If you are a big insurance company, the corporate state sure beats the vagaries of free market competition. It’s easier to pick up a phone, dial the governor and get $102 million than it is to go out in the marketplace and convince ten million New York drivers that you have the cheapest and best policies.

The politicians get to run these complex deals through their patronage apparatus—connected lawyers, real estate firms, development bureaucrats—all of whom make an enormous amount of money figuring out how the wired fat cats can avoid paying the taxes and complying with the regulations the rest of us are stuck with. The recipients of the patronage then kick-back campaign contributions to the politicians, do free legal work, and form the backbone of their campaign organizations at re-election time.


ANTI-WAR THEME

There is a timely and consistent antiwar theme throughout Political Class Dismissed.

From watching American boys die on television every night, I came to abhor war, “the health of the state.” My father had also spoken out against the Vietnam War in a speech in 1970 before my brother Mike’s high school graduating class. It was the commencement address at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, from which he had graduated early in 1943 to enlist in the Army and fight crack German troops in pitched battles in the Vosges Mountains. I would come to hate war in all its permutations: Cold War, hot war, Civil War, drug war, poverty war. “War” is the term politicians slap onto all their harebrained schemes to improve the world by use of massive aggressive force. War is a bore, but the bored always want more.

There is much, much more: Chomsky dissected; the Clintons sent up; FDR debunked; the corporate state explained; Lincoln revealed; Thoreau venerated; Bowling for Columbine reviewed; Pataki and Andrew Cuomo skewered; all with some of the liveliest prose by a Buffalo writer since Mark Twain left town for Elmira in 1871.

About the book, Ostrowski, whose boyhood hero was Thomas Jefferson, said, “I’d like to think that these essays approximate what Jefferson might say had he been around to witness the rise of the monstrous modern state with its corrupt political machines, ceaseless centralization of power and perpetual wars.”

###



About the Author

James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer and libertarian writer from Buffalo, New York. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1975 and obtained a degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1983. In law school, he was writing assistant to Dean David G. Trager, now a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. He was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society and the International Law Moot Court Team.
He served as vice-chairman of the law reform committee of the New York County Lawyers Association (1986-88) and wrote two widely quoted reports critical of the law enforcement approach to the drug problem. New York Newsday described his report on drug-related AIDS as “superb.” He was chair of the human rights committee of the Erie County Bar Association (1997-1999). He has written a number of scholarly articles on the law on subjects ranging from drug policy to the commerce clause of the Constitution. He has written several bar association reports and given continuing legal education lectures on habeas corpus, lawsuits against government officials and jury nullification.
His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Buffalo News, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Legislative Gazette. His policy studies have been published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and the Cato Institute in Washington, D. C. His articles have been used as course materials at numerous colleges and universities including Brown, Rutgers and Stanford.
Presently he is an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a columnist for two of the largest political websites in the world, Mises.org and LewRockwell.com. His personal website, JimOstrowski.com, is one of the fastest-growing sites on the Web.
He and his wife Amy live in North Buffalo with their two children.





Selected Articles by the Author

"Thinking about Drug Legalization," Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 121 (May 25, 1989).
"Was the Union Army's Invasion of the Confederate States a Lawful Act?" in Secession, State & Liberty, David Gordon, ed., (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998).

“Answering the Critics of Drug Legalization”, in Krauss, Melvyn B. and Edward P. Lazear, ed. Searching for Alternatives: Drug Control Policy in the United States. (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1991).

“The Rise and Fall of Jury Nullification,” 15 Journal of Libertarian Studies 89 (Spring 2001).

“The Moral and Practical Case for Drug Legalization,” 18 Hofstra L. Rev. 607 (1990).

Well, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is now playing and you can discover for yourself why The Bride went bonkers after Bill, her former boss and lover, ordered the hit on her wedding party. Was it just the old green-eyed monster? As entertainment, the film’s got that great Tarantino pizzazz: a superb look, jazzy editing, perfect music, and some mystery to keep you alert. Uma Thurman is still otherworldly as The Bride and David Carradine finally gets to act as Bill, as opposed to being the mythic figure of the first part. The problem is that Carradine and Tarantino still think he’s in the television series Kung Fu, so we have that mystical serenity prattle that worked well on that program. And you have every right to laugh when Bill starts playing his bamboo flute. Daryl Hannah is a blonde with vengeance in her eye. Yes, you read that right, eye. A patch covers the other one, and don’t think for a moment that Tarantino doesn’t toy with that character trait. Michael Madsen continues his typecast career as a goonish bouncer. There’s a shade less violence in this second part, and it does tie up things from volume one. But, and this is a big but, it would have been much, much better as a single, solid Tarantino adventure.

Hollywood keeps rolling out the Marvel comic book characters. Now we’ve got The Punisher. If you feel like seeing this absurd mess, I will tell you that the Punisher is human, filled with anger and hate, and has no super powers. The movie is one of those revenge epics that seem concocted from ideas written on tissue paper. The Punisher is an FBI agent who has to even the score with a mob boss embarrassingly played by John Travolta, of all people. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays a character called “The Mouse,” and I’ll leave it at that. The film’s violence would make Mel Gibson shiver.

Frank Castle, the “punisher” of the title, is played by Thomas Jane who has about as much reason for being an action hero as I do. Oh wait, I would be better because I know the rules for action movies. Never let the bad guy know how smart you are. Never say more than a few words. Never let them see your hidden gun. Or knife. Or baseball bat. As an actor, Jane is about as intelligent as a rock and not very believable as a guy eager to crack the heads of the people who murdered his family. Also in the cast is some bozo wrestler, Kevin Nash, another guy who can’t act. The movie gets silly a lot. There’s one scene where Nash is fist-fighting and the movie crosscuts his action with neighboring tenants discussing how cooking can also be considered a dance routine. Honest, it’s that stupid. Mayhem galore and a total waste of time. The film is the directorial debut of Jonathan Hensleigh, who’ll only learn how to direct by watching the original version of The Punisher, which was released in 1989 and stars Dolph Lundgren. And it’s really saying something to note that Lundgren and his movie are light years better than the new edition.

The United States Of Leland is a risky enterprise, and I admire it because there are people involved willing to take the chance that audiences can handle something a little bit different and a little bit quirky. Screenwriter-director Matthew Ryan Hoge has crafted a movie that challenges preconceived notions about what makes a character sympathetic and where characters should travel in the arc of a story. Soft-spoken teenager Leland Fitzgerald (a superb Ryan Gosling) commits a senseless murder that shocks his community, affecting both his victim’s family and his own in awful ways. When asked why he killed an autistic boy, he replies: “because of the sadness.” Sent to a juvenile detention facility for his crime, Leland comes in contact with a prison teacher and an aspiring writer, Pearl Madison (a very good Don Cheadle). As Pearl delves into the mystery of Leland’s cruel act, he also sees the chance for a career-making book because the boy’s father is a world-renowned author, well-played by Kevin Spacey. Lena Olin is also excellent as Leland’s mother. The movie examines how each family, Leland’s and the victim’s, reacts differently to the crime. It explores motive, responsibility (parental and societal), and how some people are willing to use others for their own personal gain. The emotion-charged film has some frayed edges, but there’s a certain appeal in its resistance to tidying everything up into one neat package.

The Whole Ten Yards is the sequel to 2000’s The Whole Nine Yards, which was a breezy mob comedy that succeeded because the primary cast, Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Natasha Henstridge, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Amanda Peet had a brightness and sparkle that worked well. Now they’ve added a yard and created a movie that feels like it was bought at a dollar store. Once again, Willis is the mob boss, although this time he has a softer side. Peet, an actress I thoroughly enjoy, is Willis’ wry attractive wife. Perry, an actor of not much depth, is the neurotic who needs his help after his own wife has been kidnapped by some goofball Hungarian mobster, played to annoying heights by the grotesquely overrated Kevin Pollack, who was also a pain to watch in the first movie. Gangster stereotypes abound and attempted jokes fly high and crash to the floor like bricks in a tornado. Perry spends most of the movie falling over furniture. Hopefully, when his face hit the ground he saw his future and realized it isn’t very promising if he keeps making junk like this.

On April 12, there were under 100 protestors at Bidwell Park, Buffalo on April 12 at the emergency demonstration in response to US attacks on Fallujah. Sure, the response was positive, lots of honking horns and waving. But we all know it’s genocide over there; and Bush on April 13 gives the green light to crush Fallujah. Probably new types of weapons will be tried out.

What’s that got to do with 9-11? Good question.

It’s our view that the chief vulnerability of the White House-controlled juggernaut is 9-11.

This view was reified after attending the International Inquiry into 9-11 (San Francisco, March 26-28).

At his April 13 2004 press conference, George Bush again linked Iraq with 9-11: “…the lesson of September the 11th is, when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we’ve got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously. Saddam Hussein was a threat…”

And again, from Bush: “…it didn’t take me long to put us on a war footing. And we’ve been on a war footing ever since. The lessons of 9-11 that I – one lesson was, we must deal with gathering threats. And that’s part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did.”

They attacked us first is the mantra. Bush can spin on deliriously pathological, as long as he and his handlers can keep that first lie going: they attacked us first, Osama, al-Qaida…

They attacked us first. “We’re at war. Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It is not the war on terror; it is a theater in the war on terror. And it’s essential that we win this battle in the war on terror. By winning this battle, it will make other victories more certain in the war against the terrorist.” (Bush, April 13, 2004)

The whole ball of obfuscation and lies is predicated on sustaining the big one: they attacked us first.

No kid wants to believe their father is a criminal, observes Eric Hufschmid, trying to find an analogy to explain the nation’s denial about 9-11. Hufschmid, one of the San Francisco 9-11 speakers and author of Painful Deceptions/Painful Illusions (video and book) characterizes the USA as the “Un-informed Sheeple of America.” Another analogy: sheep are controlled by dogs; people are controlled by criticism. People accept being lied to so as not to be isolated from the crowd. Exposure of the egregious crime of 9-11 offers the potential to break the control, maybe.

Ellen Mariani, wife of 9-11 victim, with her attorney, former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general, Phil Berg (www.911forthetruth.com), both Inquiry speakers, outlined their civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) action against President Bush and other high level members of his administration: based upon the administration’s prior knowledge of 9-11; knowingly failing to act, prevent or warn of 9-11; and the ongoing obstruction of justice by covering up the truth of 9-11. RICO, notes Berg, “…was created to prosecute the mob. Our position is that there is a mob in the White House and we have to do something about it.”

Mike Ruppert, former LAPD narcotics investigator, whistleblower, and 9-11 Inquiry keynote speaker outlined his strategy regarding exposing and bringing the perps to justice: “…you take the statements made by the suspect, you prove them to be lies—and that becomes admissible in court and then any John Q. Citizen on the street can understand that. We have to secure the general public’s understanding that the US government lied. First.”

Bruce Gagnon who heads the Portland Maine-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (12th annual conference April 23-25, 2004), was also a key speaker at the 9-11 conference. Gagnon outlined depths to which German Nazis penetrated the CIA, NASA and the weapons and space programs. See Operation Paperclip (www.space4peace.org)

Gagnon noted how easily presidential candidate Gore went down, without a fight, even though he’d clearly been cheated of the presidency, indicating his loyalty to the system rather than any obligation to the US or its people.

Texas author Jim Marrs (Inside Job) suggested that Bush in the White House was necessary if the 9-11 and post-9-11 scenario was the same (and Marrs thinks it would have been). The conservatives would have put up a bigger fuss against expansionism and “foreign entanglements.” Better to have their guy. It’s confused them. Also, says the Texan, they’re hornswoggled by religion in the Bible Belt, sanctioning “some of the most unchristian things I’ve ever seen.”

Nafeez M. Ahmed, from London, is the author of The War On Freedom (How and Why America was Attacked Sept. 11, 2001) published in 2002. In his San Francisco talk, Ahmed discussed the findings of his recent book, Behind the War on Terror. Ahmed’s work is featured prominently, along with Michel Chossudovsky’s (a keynote speaker in the upcoming Toronto inquiry) in the very important wrap-up book, The New Pearl Harbor (Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11) by David Ray Griffin (prof. of philosophy of religion, Claremont School of Theology).

Those following critically the 9-11 story will recognize many of the other speakers in San Francisco (Barrie Zwicker, Webster Tarpley, Ralph Schoenman, Daniel Hopsicker, Gray Brechin et al). To most, though, these people who challenge the official story are off the radar. Their speeches and/or interviews are posted on www.snowshoefilms.com
For further information on the May 25-30, 2004 Inquiry (phase two), see www.911inquiry.org and www.globalresearch.ca

Roy & Karen Harvey / snowshoefilms.com

Mr. Bush simply ignored the questions asked and went on babbling willy-nilly what ever seemed to pop into his head. He struggled mightily to parrot out what he has been parroting all along. Mr. Bush claimed that these latest attacks are the work of the ubiquitous “thugs and terrorists” that seem to dot the Iraq landscape, popping up to cause trouble and annoy the administration. He seemed to be whistling past a US foreign policy graveyard, one rapidly filling with dead US soldiers.

At one point he was asked if he had made any mistakes. He couldn’t remember, but fortunately here at the Alt, we do. The biggest mistake being the firing of the standing Iraqi army, along with thousands of Baath party bureaucrats, both of whom could have maintained security and stability. Any imperial power past or present knows that you must “buy the loyalty of those you have overthrown”. It’s good business. During the American occupation of Germany, the US government retained thousands of ex-Nazi types to run the country.

Iraqi proconsul L. Paul Bremer gets the blame for unleashing last week’s uprising by closing down a then little known newspaper with a circulation of 10,000 and arresting its editor. The papers crime was one of “spreading anti-American views.” Freedom of the press must not be one of Mr. Bremer’s articles in the new Iraq constitution. As the American occupation troops have learned, the editor of that paper was none other than the now infamous rebel cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

This event seems to have triggered the release of his militia, and the genie is now out of the bottle, and will not be denied. US troops are now surrounding the town of Najaf, where the bandit of Baghdad has fled, to bring him out dead or alive. Presumably, al-Sadr is holed up in his office near a mosque in this most holy of Shia cities, surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of his fanatic followers.

Iraqis will now see a Christian army- laying siege to Muslim ground zero in what must be, to their long memories, another Crusade. It will be up to young American Infantrymen to make the assault and drag him out. Assuming his rabid rabble allow that to happen. The end result of the ultimatum could be a house- to- house blood bath.

House-to-house urban warfare was exactly what the pentagon feared might occur in the assault on Baghdad last year. Last week it happened in Fallujah, thirty miles west. US Marines, looking for the killers of four American contractors, had to result to close in air support and tanks as they moved into the hostile city. The result was about 600 dead Fallujahans, most of them women and children. A local soccer stadium has come a graveyard.

The result of Bremer’s bungling has been to force the Iraqis to choose nationalism over tribal and religious schism. Sunnis and Shia have put heir differences aside, at least for the moment, and unleashed jihad against the Americans. The enemy of my enemy scenario seems to be at work here. Holy war may be too strong a word, but I don’t think so. The fighting inside Iraq has been much worse than the average American has been led to believe, to wit:

The second of two helicopters was shot down Tuesday morning, just east of the besieged city of Fallujah. It was a Special Operations MH-53 Pave Low, which first gained fame as the “Jolly Green Giant” in Viet Nam (there’s that war again). This very large single rotor chopper was used on harrowing missions sometimes into North Viet Nam to rescue downed American pilots. The Pave Low crash site, 12 miles east of the city, was secured, but he military won’t give disposition of the crew, only to say they are alive. The may have been captured. The site and security team were mortared, but the marines managed to burn the ship in place before they were themselves extracted. The first helicopter, an Apache, was shot down on Sunday morning, reportedly by a surface to air missile.

American supply lines and convoys are coming under constant, serious attack. This last weekend, US troops fought “pitched battles” to keep the north-south and east-west lines of communication into Baghdad running. The associated press reported that a convoy of flatbed trucks hauling M-113 armored personnel carriers was overrun and burned, twenty miles south of the capitol. The supply lines from Baghdad into Fallujah have been attacked repeatedly, fuel tankers burned, both military and civilian contractors killed or kidnapped or both. Us troops are hard pressed to protect them all. It has come to light that they don’t. Fuel and ammunition have military escort. But food and water shipments may not. Kellogg Brown & Root have about 700 trucks moving stuff around the country. They have to hire their own guards. As we have noted, there are about 20,000 so-called private military contractors in Iraq, mostly providing security to whoever wants to pay the 1,000 a week fee. These mercenaries (if you will) are paid for by the pentagon but not accountable to anyone in the congress. It has been reported that as many 80 PMC’s have been killed in the last week. These deaths do not have to be reported as “official” deaths.

As the convoy attacks continue, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Lt. General John Abizad, has asked the pentagon for an additional 10,000 troops. Mars alone knows where the DoD will get them. Troop rotations of those soldiers inside Iraq have been frozen yet again, most notably the first Armored Division. The area commander wants to increase troop strength to about 135,000.

Kidnappings have indeed escalated. The latest AP figures are 22 still held, while 35 have been released. Most foreign governments are telling their civilians to get out. Russia is sending planes for their 500 folks still in country. France has ordered their people out tout suite.

At least 680 American soldiers have been killed so far, with thousands wounded. This number is suspect, and could be much higher. As we noted in the last issue of Alt, the pentagon has been reluctant to be forthright with casualty returns.

A recent article in The New York Times described how New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein is surrounding himself with young MBA/investment banking types who are charged with “reforming” New York City’s schools. These new twenty-something’s in red suspenders seem very much like the boy wonders we heard so much about in the late nineties. Interestingly, one thirty-one year old on Mr. Klein’s staff, Matthew Onek, is also the son of Mr. Klein’s law partner. In other words, no experience necessary.

According to the article, “To some, the new educrats - working in everything from curriculum to strategic planning - are a long-overdue influx of extraordinary managerial talent from outside the school system. To others, they represent an insult to veteran school officials, a devastating loss of institutional memory and a corporate-style takeover of the public school system.”

To those who still remember the “greed is good” battle cry, the message should be clear. The battle is on and no prisoners will be taken. In the case of the City of Buffalo, the barbarians may already be inside the gates. Charter Schools: The Shiny New SPV’s? While the “special purpose vehicles” or SPV’s formerly were phantom companies with names like “Raptor” and “Chewco”, in the “new economy” pedagogic parlance they’re simply referred to as “charter schools.”

The off-balance sheet “phantom menace” for the Buffalo Board of Education is the charter school movement. Charter Schools are designed to bankrupt the system and bust the teachers’ unions.

Even though the charter school movement in the City of Buffalo is rooted in racial issues, the ability to terminate contracts with teachers’ unions across the board is akin to a gold rush. Authentic, community-based charter schools set up in good faith may soon find themselves cut loose as their corporate sponsors build a cartel and if the union busting and empire building works in Buffalo, who’s to say it won’t work in Williamsville or Kenmore?

The Analysts Can’t Be Wrong

One doesn’t need an overpriced study to realize that Buffalo’s Public Schools are in trouble, but the Buffalo Board of Education commissioned a study anyway and found out that the answer to the crisis in funding for public education lies in dividing the meager resources allotted to public schools with charter school rivals.

Last year, an entity called the Education Innovation Consortium published a report at the behest of the Board of Ed. That recommended a radical experiment in education. It called for the school district to start sponsoring charter schools. Not surprisingly, Alt has found that the group is an offshoot of the Center for Educational Innovation, a not for profit operating in New York City that promotes charter schools.

Charter school advocates usually target teachers’ unions as the gravest problem facing education today, and while most would agree that the traditional school year is still geared more towards the needs of nineteenth century agrarian society, the argument that the teachers’ unions are the ones at fault for this and many other problems in education has high credence in the charter school movement.

The belief that teachers’ salaries are too high also seems to be a central theme. In other words the union has done too good a job on behalf of its members, and is about to become a victim of that success. Interestingly, the six figure salaries of board members of the Education Innovation Consortium, and other right wing think tanks devoted to privatizing public education, aren’t an issue. The obscene level of executive compensation packages in corporate America hasn’t changed in the aftermath of the new economy bubble. If anything, it’s gotten worse. The spiritual leader of this movement, Jack Welch, fattened his calf by intoning “shareholder value” as his mantra. That meant firing tens of thousands of workers or “drowning the kittens” in new economy-speak. As the vitality continues to be drained from the America economy at a rapid pace, it should be clear that any industry still retaining a strong union work force in the United States has a big target on it with “Neutron Jack” and his followers.

Curbing “Cadillac Health Care Packages”

The disparity between teacher compensation and the income received by many parents struggling in low wage service economy jobs, creates a natural class rift that is being exploited ingeniously by wealthy “reformers.”

Part of teacher compensation includes an endangered species in American society called health care coverage. Why do teachers deserve generous health care benefits when the rest of American society has been left at the mercy of a privatized and increasingly class-driven health care industry? The answer seems to be that they don’t and if we privatize public education, everyone will be on a level playing field. Right-wingers have been able to control this debate. Why, indeed, do teachers deserve a privilege like health care? That is the focus, instead of asking the question of why so many Americans are without coverage in the wealthiest nation on earth.

MBA Buzzwords: Create Your Own Reality!

The lingo of charter schools is peppered with new economy buzzwords. The website of the Buffalo Board of Education uses terms and phrases like “creative innovation”, and the imperative of “greater economies and efficiencies.” The Board’s website also talk about how Buffalo will be a “district that will compete vigorously with other districts.” Then there is the notion that Buffalo Public Schools are like lords of the manor when compared with their colleagues in the suburbs. They need to be, “...brought into line with similar benefits of comparable employees.” The poor funding of City schools doesn’t call for statewide reform, but for a more competitive business model.

The way to accomplish this sort of MBA mission statement appears simple. While repeatedly demanding greater accountability from its teachers, the Board of Education appears to be removing its own liabilities from sight through the “special purpose vehicle” of charter schools.

However, if “performance evaluations” are to be believed, then charter schools have not demonstrated that they represent an academic improvement over public schools. Historically, Charter schools have “outperformed” public schools when they’ve been allowed to “skim” students. In other words when a new charter is able to take the best students from failing public schools, they do better than those public schools. By bringing in enough new charters to bankrupt the entire system, teacher salaries will decrease, while leaving a big slice of pie for the creative entrepreneurial types who saw this “business opportunity” and ran with it. Once this end is accomplished it’s hard to see how the new under-funded charters will be any different than their under-funded public school predecessors.

The Illusion of Choice

The addition of school choice has given parents some options of removing their children from poor schools, it has done so at the price of increased transportation costs for those students who must now be provided with free bussing to the school of their choice. So while the School Board has stated that it will be “attempting to reduce the expense to the school system of high cost items in our bargaining agreements which benefit only small groups of employees,” transportation costs for the district will actually be going up.

“School Choice” as promoted by the district may also have the unintended consequence of weakening and even forcing the closure of poorly performing schools, which are more often than not located in poor neighborhoods. Such a result would be in direct opposition to the goal of a return to strong neighborhood schools advocated by many conservatives.

School Choice does not allow attendance in wealthy suburban school districts, but parents who have embraced new economy ethics still enroll their children in these schools under false pretenses. We call these parents criminals. School board members who take on the teachers’ unions by withholding millions of dollars in back pay, as in the case of former Buffalo Board of Ed. President Paul Buchanan, get to be called Judge. The message is clear for school board candidates who would choose to support a hostile takeover of the public school system: your reward won’t come from feeling good about making a difference in students lives, it will come in the form of an immediate and highly tangible financial and political payoff.

Free Market Free-For-All: If You’re Thinking, You Should Be Writing

The unabashedly pro-market approach embraced by the School Board comes in the aftermath of the market collapse created by that very same way of thinking. Unlike Enron executives, parents and students may not be able to walk away unscathed. If anything, the position of school board members is similar to that faced by devastated third world government officials requesting assistance from the International Monetary Fund. Federal and State officials are insisting on free market solutions for problems that have more to do with a lack of transparency, corrupt funding formulas, and chronic poverty than with whether or not teachers are entitled to middle class salaries and free health care.

In the face of this hostile takeover, many teachers, particularly those in suburban school districts are remarkably complacent. Americans have been slow to embrace the concept of lifelong learning especially when it comes to scholarly pursuits. How many teachers wielding absolute authority in their classrooms have held their students to strict writing deadlines while failing to put pen to paper themselves? How many teachers, saddled with enormous debt from pursuing the advanced degrees necessary to meet rising standards view a well paid teaching position as the logical and just conclusion to their own academic inquiries? Many teachers and students take it on faith that if they study hard follow the rules they can earn a comfortable living as an educator. That is no longer the case. Earning a living wage is NOT a birthright. Though most people still regard education as a sacred institution in this country, in terms of the “new economy” mindset it is just another industry waiting to be “right-sized.”

George Bush ran on a campaign promise to become “the education president.” What have you teachers and students out there learned so far? As an old teacher from Texas once told me, “If you’re thinking, you should be writing.”

One parent who attended the meeting told alt that, “The big thing is that the principal submitted an application to talk about it. They won’t even know if they (School 54 administration) have permission to talk about setting up a charter school until mid-April.”

Although the parent said that the meeting with the principal was somewhat reassuring, he also said, “Communications on the charter school between the principal, teachers and parents was nil before this, but this was just to get the conversation going. teachers and parents were upset that she didn’t say anything. When it comes down to decision making that’s when she needs to really talk to us about this.”

“A couple of parents of special education kids were really upset because of the history of special education kids in charter schools,” this person went on to say, “Most of us think the school is good the way it is, and we don’t want to change it.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Elizabeth Martina said that the she had submitted “a preliminary concept proposal to develop a conversion charter school.”

“As you know the fiscal outlook for our school district, has been very challenging since the tragedies of 9-11,” the letter stated. “This next year the district is facing a budget gap of 45 million dollars. The board is looking for a means to bring fiscal stability to the school district. We are looking to bring stability to our enrollment and staffing as well. We have had to cut and rearrange classrooms every year for the past three years. As more families leave our school for charters and for other school settings because of these uncertainties, we have had to make additional cuts.”

Our Translation: Republican lawmakers have seized upon 9-11 to bust teachers’ unions. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Rather than hold out and make a final stand, we need to surrender to political pressure in order to survive.

Some parents in attendance were able to draw a connection between the policies of the Bush administration and Buffalo’s Fiscal Stability Authority, as well. A few people mentioned union busting, which was, of course, denied.

One of the more idealistic teachers actually said that it was not about the union but making a difference in the city schools. Under the conversion law all employee contracts would be honored until their expiration and at that point all contracts would have to be renegotiated.

This strategy amounts to a classic two-tiered system, whereby teachers currently under union contract can continue to enjoy the salary and benefits that were won in hard fought battles while exposing their younger colleagues coming into the system to the vagaries of the free market.

Older unionized workers in Western New York and around the country continue to allow themselves to be forced into a no-win situation whereby their only way out is to pull the ladder up behind them.

Given the intensity of the attack in The Buffalo News, which is supported by parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s banking interest, M&T Bank, parents and teachers, like the community at large, have been squeezed hard.

While Buffalo schools have been a dismal failure due in large part to under-funding, the charter school movement appears poised to institutionalize that poverty. Nothing but a strong showing in the school board election on May 4 by grass roots candidates will be able keep the boa constrictor from swallowing its prey.

In Buffalo’s tough economic times, the school district has a hard job of just obtaining funding for general subjects like math and science, let alone making sure students pass their exams. Art Partners provides teachers, supplies and an interdisciplinary agenda so students can learn about social studies for example, while constructing a Mayan pyramid as an art project.

Art Partners conglomerates as a fieldwork program involving faculty and students from Buffalo State College. Andrus also works at Buffalo State as a member of the Art Education department. Each semester a group of students, around 15, enrolls in her course, Art for Children with Special Needs, bringing the program to two designated Buffalo school sites. The special needs students not only include those with disabilities but also those considered at risk due to social, economic, environmental and other life circumstances negatively affecting their ability to succeed in school and society.

Andrus saw a need for the program back in 1994 when reflecting on her mostly white, middle-class students.

“We were on our way to producing another culturally incompetent teaching force,” Andrus said. “They have had little experience with at risk children. There is fear, misconception and stereotypes.”

The professor also studied the situation for black men in America and how they fell so fast to being at-risk children.

“Research says black male kids lose their love for school at grade three,” Andrus said. “Their falling through the cracks, and we need prevention. Every day there is racism, and it takes a toll on the psyche. When your life in your own eyes holds little value, it becomes easy to take someone else’s (life).”

Projects for the children have included themes in understanding the self, social activism and world culture.

Andrus takes pride in the fact of the program allowing children to learn to be consumers of art and possibly even makers in the future. She shows them there is more out there that they can be and do and feel.

“We can’t do anything major (to raise self-esteem), but we can use art to help,” Andrus said. “We give them a different identity. They need to feel empowerment and confidence to withstand the temptations of society they need a strong sense of self.”

And the children have been quite receptive. Even the tough kids who are a little older still can be helped. At School 57—a challenge at times for Andrus—one of the toughest boys found a way to express himself through art.

“George was like the ‘gang leader’,” Andrus said. “The student teachers thought he wasn’t enjoying Art Partners or getting through to him. At our last session with these fourth and fifth graders George started crying because he knew we were going to be leaving. I just told the kids (student teachers) you can’t quit early and always have faith.”

But Andrus has been busy. Her biggest concern is keeping the program going and expanding. She does most of the work and grant writing on her own time. All of the supplies and projects are kept at her home. The program takes a lot of time and effort as it is a real teaching course including lesson plans and project assessment. Fortunately Art Partner has received funding from the Center for Development of Human Services and Erie County Legislator Crystal Peoples and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery offers exhibit space in its education wing, but Andrus is always looking for more donations and help. But even with her busy schedule, Andrus realizes the impact she is having on her students and community for generations to come.

“It gives my students a look at an alternative view to art education and helping the community,” she said. “We need to spread the word around the country.”

For more information, exhibit pictures and course examples check out www.artpartnersprogram.com.

Yes, it does seem that everyone’s into box office grosses this season. As Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic bondage movie has been raking in the dough, Hollywood has managed to release some other efforts, although the buzz about The Passion…is still non-stop. Highest grossing religious movie, most money for an R-rated movie on a weekend, etc. Blah, blah, blah. And now the conspiracy-minded, such as the simplistic, bullying windbag Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, are worried that the film won’t be considered for the Oscars because it’s about Jesus and the ruling studio Jews will never let it win best picture. I gotta tell you, these nutcases never cease to amaze me. Plenty of movies about religion and Jesus and events from the Bible have received Oscar nominations and some have won the coveted gold trophy.

Gibson’s exercise in re-writing the Bible won’t win because it’s a cheesy gore-fest. And cheesy gore-fests do not win best picture Oscars. Hollywood likes their best picture winners to uplift in some way, and The Passion… is about as uplifting as burnt rubber. Oh sure, it may have moved some people - heck, a lot of people, to tears, but that doesn’t count as the reaction needed to score awards. Sheep will always follow other sheep, especially if they’re lied to the way religious Americans were lied to by Gibson and his publicity flacks about “somebody” not wanting them to see his motion picture. As much as I thought the movie was a distortion of religion and an exercise in sadomasochistic banality, I will grant Gibson one achievement, his behavior in promoting the film is as craven an act as anything Jesus ever preached against.

Meanwhile, movie reviewers have to move on, and I know you’re eager to read about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Jersey Girl, The Ladykillers, Monsieur Ibrahim, The Secret Window, and Taking Lives, I wish had had better things to report. Here are a half a dozen new features and not one of them manages to coalesce into a fully satisfying film. There are bits and pieces of pleasure in these offerings, and occasionally there’s genius, but overall, each movie falters, maybe right out of the gate, maybe at the finish line. There aren’t a lot of science fiction comedies out there, and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind goes for laughter, but never quite achieves nirvana. The movie isn’t as good as it thinks it is. You watch it admiring its daring, even smiling a lot, but the overall reaction is one of disappointment. Director Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) are too fond of tricks; there are too many reversals in this tall tale of lovers who have their minds erased to forget about each other. Kate Winslet is feisty as all get out as the female half of the odd duo. Jim Carrey is the male who decides not to go to work one day, an act that alters his life forever. Carrey tries too hard to be sober-minded, as if he’s aware he’s in a comedy, but doesn’t want to be comic. He flattens the movie a bit. Winslet is so hippie-dippie that you can’t erase her from your mind. Tom Wilkinson is the man behind a method that will erase what you want from your brain. Kirsten Dunst has the stereotypical secretary role and Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo are technicians who perform the “operation,” which has something to do with sonic waves of some kind. It’s a nifty cast alright, but deep inside this whirlwind of a movie are Kaufman and Gondry trying too hard to be quirky. Director Kevin Smith used to make iconoclastic films. Clerks and Chasing Amy are his two best. Now he’s delivered Jersey Girl, and it’s a romantic comedy mish-mash that would embarrass even Doris Day. The idea for the effort came from Smith’s own experiences as a father. I’ve got news for him, who cares. I’m sick and tired of filmmakers who think that just because they’ve experienced the miracle of birth, everyone else has to share in the bounty or watch a movie based on the giddy utterances of their annoying offspring. I’ve got even more news for Smith. As an unimpressed Alexis Carrington snidely said on Dynasty to someone who was jawing about having a baby, “even worms procreate.” Anyway, Ben Affleck, desperately trying to underplay, is a successful Manhattan entrepreneur who moves in with his grizzled old father (the edgy George Carlin of all people) after his wife dies. The wife is the estimable Jennifer Lopez, and I’m sure I don’t have to rehash all the Ben and Jen baloney. Lopez was a good actress, until she decided she was a Diva. Sorry, Jen, you ain’t no Diva. Not as long as Faye Dunaway’s still alive. The movie is about Affleck’s widowed character coping with raising his cutesy-poo daughter who spouts sentimental schlock the likes of which no living child has ever spoken. The little girl is played by Raquel Castro, who’s so saccharine that she makes Shirley Temple seem mordant. This is drivel moviemaking at its zenith. Affleck has tossed aside any pretense of being able to act. But imagine someone worse. Liv Tyler is in the film, and she’s so badly in need of acting lessons that you cringe for those emoting with her, even Affleck.

We certainly should be grateful for the work of the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and The Hudsucker Proxy are works to relish and watch more than once. And, I really enjoyed the sneaky humor of O Brother, Where Art Thou? So, it pains me to report that with their latest, The Ladykillers, the two have overreached. Something possessed the pair to remake the classic British Ealing Studios comedy of the same name from 1955 and to turn a gentle, graceful, charming, intelligent, and very funny English movie into a charmless, plodding, unfunny American mess. Where the former had Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, the Coen’s effort has Tom Hanks and Marlon Wayans, and the twain doesn’t meet. The setting has been switched to the southern U.S.A. The plots are similar. The head of a gang of thieves rents a room in a house owned by an elderly woman. He’s going to commit a robbery. He brings in his henchmen. The old lady turns everything upside down. In the British film, the woman was curious and blithely unaware that her every act and word were disruptive. In the remake, the old lady is a busybody pain-in-the-neck, who’s prone to anger and physical violence. The Coens have also altered the landscape by making their woman black. But instead of making this switch work, they’ve created jokes that rely on race, and they just aren’t funny. Hanks has a good time with his southern gentleman persona, but Wayans is an untalented ham whose character is a tasteless abomination.

Monsieur Ibrahim stars Omar Sharif as an elderly Muslim man who befriends a neglected Jewish boy in Paris in the 1960s. Sharif won the Cesar (the French equivalent of the Academy Award) for best actor for his role, and he deserves it. His performance is wonderful and he keeps you interested in the story even as it bogs down in philosophical meandering. Screenwriter-director Francois Dupeyron does succeed in avoiding treacle; he never sugarcoats the differences between the boy and the man. The mentor-student relationship isn’t smarmy or played for anything other than its sincere and honest openness.

The Secret Window did prove something I’ve always thought about novelist Stephen King. He’s a one-note guy. The movie is based on a King work about a writer who can’t come up with anything new to say. He’s blocked. His marriage is bad, and he’s got a stalker. Sound familiar. The movie succeeds for a while because Johnny Depp is very good as the writer. But soon, ennui takes over as the road we’re on seems too well-traveled. Nothing original breaks through. Taking Lives is so boring that you wonder if some sort of chemical agent didn’t drift over the set making everyone drowsy. It’s a sub-standard serial killer movie in which the cast reads their dialogue s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. Only a quirky Ethan Hawke manages to have fun. Angelina Jolie is around to lead the chase, but halfway through, you just don’t care.

The children at the school learn to solve conflicts through peace. When a student has a problem with another student they go to the "Peace Table" to express themselves through words. The school year ends every year with a Peace Celebration. Upon graduation from the school, the children receive an Ambassador of Peace button.

As a spring fundraiser, we are selling Peace T-shirts and Sweatshirts. Please let me know if you or anyone you know would be interested. T-shirts are $10 and Sweatshirts are $18 (sizes youth S-L and adult S-XXL). You can reach me by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at my home phone at 823-1166. The school is located at 75 Hickory St., Buffalo, NY 14204. Ph. 842-6213 Fax (716) 842-1454. website: http://home.catholicweb.com/SSCBMS/

The school contact is Jim Serafin. All orders for the Spring fundraiser must be placed by May 5. The shirt is sand colored. The graphic contains small handsprints shaped into a Peace Dove with the word Peace in the center. The school's name is listed below the peace dove.

Peace!
Sincerely,
Amy Rodriguez
The Bush administration has gone so far as to limit the amount of time the Disabled American Veterans folks can counsel wounded soldiers. The visits are few and those permitted closely supervised. The President has not attended one funeral of an American soldier killed in action. Not one.

If the wounding and maiming of Americans in Iraq is given little attention in the media, deaths get scant more attention. The reason being that the Pentagon and White House wish to protect the privacy of the families. This is both nonsense and offensive on the part of the Bush White House. This decision (probably made by Karl Rove and company) is designed to glean the maximum political advantage. Pictures of flag- draped American coffins will not help shore up G.I. George’s shaky poll numbers; therefore they won’t be allowed.

Unfortunately for the thousands of mostly green US troops now heading for Iraq, Insurgent activity is escalating in violence and skill. More Americans will be killed and maimed before this madness is finished, if it ever will be.

Outright full scale civil has not quite broken out yet in Iraq, but what is happening within the Sunni triangle and across the rest of the country will do as a prelude.. As we go to press, rocket attacks on both civilian and coalition targets are increasing. Drive by shootings, ambushes, and running gun- fights erupt in dozens of incidents each day. It’s difficult to keep track of the details. The murders of coalition employee civilians are commonplace and the ill trained and worse equipped Iraqi police can do little but write a report after cleaning up the mess.

The only Iraqis venturing out after the curfew are those intent on mayhem. The numerous explosions are now hardly noticed by the general population, unless it happens to blow them personally to bits.

And the spin goes on. As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the Bush administration continues to spit out the same line; we tossed out the tyrant, the world is safer, the terrorists are on the run, if you’re not with me you are against me, someday WMD’s might be found, American democracy will spread its self-righteous wings across the middles east and the world will be made safe for mom, apple pie and the girl I left behind. That is, if she can be distracted long enough from shopping the local Mall to pay any attention. Since the beginning of hostilities a year ago, almost 700 Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombers, far more than those in Palestine. The car bomb seems to be the weapon of choice. Much like the Kamikaze of WWII fame, it’s spectacular, cheap, and very lethal when used properly. Suicide’s driving cars seem the most popular variation on a theme against Iraqi soft targets. But Car bombs don’t work well against American GI’s. Anything approaching an American checkpoint that seems the least bit hostile will be shot to pieces. When innocent Iraqis are caught in the cross fire, the locals accuse the Americans of cold- blooded murder. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They don’t understand that the average GI now realizes that he isn’t fighting for freedom, but for Halliburton. He/she is simply using the Bush doctrine of preemptive war to save his own skin. He sees an imminent threat to himself and his friends in the approach of an automobile hurtling at his roadblock, and acts accordingly: with massive, overwhelming firepower instantly delivered at the call of a handset. I’m surprised that entire sections of Downtown Baghdad haven’t been carpet bombed to bits by b-52’s unloading 2000 pound bombs called in by nervous privates.

Collecting the American spent brass and other shell casings will no doubt produce the first crop of Iraqi millionaire entrepreneurs.

We have all seen the images of shot up cars and trucks. But I can tell you that I would have fired the first shots. I myself would call in the air strike. Don’t kid you soon to be downsized self. So would you. Conflict resolution has no place in a firefight.

I plan to continue to write from the other side of the prison doors. I will write a column from “the dark side” for Alt Press. I hope to share with Alt Press readers an idea of what happens after the judge pronounces sentence and after the defendant has disappeared into the prison system. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, many defendants truly seem to have disappeared into the prison system forever. And the world continues to go on without them, almost as if they have ceased to exist. It seems very much like the world created in George Orwell’s 1984, in which victims of the Thought Police disappear into an abyss. At their workplaces, their names are removed from the walls and the cubicles in which they work are removed, leaving no trace that these people had ever existed.

This past week, I went to Washington, D.C., to talk to staff people in congressional offices about another kind of disappearance, the disappearance and murders of thousands of people in Latin America at the hands of graduates of the School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. I went to encourage the staff aides to talk to members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring HR 1258, which calls for the closure of SOA/WHINSEC and the investigation of the teaching practices offered at that school by an independent truth and reconciliation commission. I asked for the U.S. government to be accountable for its actions. I asked for an investigation of the source of the torture training manuals, which the Pentagon admitted were circulated at the School of the Americas.

In addition to sharing the facts about a school that, so far, has gotten away with teaching torture, assassination, and the overthrow of legally elected governments with impunity, I also shared my personal story. I told the staff members about my experiences in Guatemala and about how the violent behavior of SOA graduates has affected me personally. I told the staff members about my arrest at Fort Benning and about the fact that I would soon be headed to federal prison. The staff members, even those in staunchly conservative, pro-SOA-WHINSEC offices, including that of David Dreier of California, listened intently and showed concern as I told my story. I did not expect that David Dreier, whose office is just steps away from that of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, to support HR 1258. And he did not. But I would encourage you, the readers, to call your House representatives and ask them to consider co-sponsoring that legislation if they have not done so already. If, in the case of Rep. Louise Slaughter and Rep. Jack Quinn, they are co-sponsors, please remember to call them and thank them for their support of closing and investigating a school that many call a “terrorist training camp” run and operated right here in the United States. Please also call the offices of Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and ask them to sponsor a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. The fact that the congressional staffers listened so intently when I told my personal story, backed up with facts and statistics, makes my upcoming sojourn into the federal prison system worthwhile. The action that I took at Fort Benning, Georgia, which the government termed “illegal,” and I termed “expressing my constitutional rights,” was effective. It served to remind me that ordinary citizens can make an impact on the way that their government is run. The price for speaking out can be high. But I can live with being sent to prison for expressing myself. The price for not speaking out can be much higher: the loss of the civil rights that we hold so dear in this country. That price is too high for me.