Friday, December 22, 2006



In the weeks leading up to Christmas, New York City evenings begin, and soon arrive at, their annual ritual of taking on an extra-added electric glow. The added hues and shades of light announce to residents and visitors alike, the holiday season has arrived. New York’s extravagant Christmas lights and decorations provide visual coaxing for what is meant to be a festive time of year in an American city that never sleeps, and loves to shop. Tourists, children and many residents, look at the lights in awe as Department store districts like those in Midtown transform into a Christmas wonderland, where shoppers scurry about like busy elves getting ready for a certain really big night.

From Rockefeller Center and the famous, tall, sculpted and not a spot missed lit tree, to the giant crystal snowflake at 57th and Fifth Avenue, the city is polished and ready for Santa, North Pole bound, almost to the point of perfection in its decoration. Even down in the fashion district new, modern lights, single color snowflakes and stars line the streets, one right after the other in almost accurate order presenting a city that at first glance, appears to have been enrolled in an exterior decorating class. Parts of Manhattan present a polished Christmas, a scene out of a modern “Miracle on 34th Street” where all is planned and occasionally one gets caught up in the brightness of it all. But, sometimes, one stumbles upon an electric display that doesn’t shine as bright as those in Midtown, instead its lights twinkle, and for some unknown reason, it brings back memories, touching on that nostalgic nerve that provides a key to the spirit of Christmas.

According to Mary Bellis at “”, Inventor Edward Johnson was responsible for the first string of Christmas lights back in the late 1890’s. By 1900, Department stores had started using the lights for displays. Later, Albert Sadacca came up with “safe” Christmas lights and eventually started mass producing the brightly colored bulbs through a company called NOMA electric company. Soon enough, cities found themselves taking on the added glow of Christmas displays from coast to coast.

This year in New York, the Christmas lights began appearing as early as Halloween. There was barely time to enjoy Thanksgiving when what would appear but strands of giant green garland across Eighth Street and white stars in the Financial district. Then, at some point, a series of random older Christmas displays were being strung across the streets of the East Village. And, it was in the East Village on 7th Street, near Avenue A, that one display brought back memories of living in a small town in Alabama, when the annual appearance of Christmas decorations in Wilsonville made a small boy thrilled that the season had arrived.

It was in this small town of less than one thousand, usually the day after Thanksgiving, that the boy would ride his bike down to the road, and watch and eagerly wait as men installed the lights, some shaped like canes with bells, others with Santa Clauses faces, others with candles. Hanging from power poles that were normally dark except for an occasional passing car, now were lit with greens, reds and pink. The displays weren’t that polished, instead they twinkled in the wind, almost mystical in nature, to a child, the perfect visual pill of warmth, comfort and hope that Christmas, back then, meant to him. And suddenly, here in New York, amid the hectic brightness of the nation’s largest city, he found that memory in a vintage Christmas display hanging across the street in his busy East Village neighborhood.

There it was, garland lit by lit by pinkish bells hanging in poetic curves that came to point in the middle, framed by a red ribbon. What imperfection, what history, who could say how many Christmases this display had seen? How much had New York changed? How much had the world? One wonders where it’s stored throughout the year. All the New Yorker knew was that he had to pause, to stare, to wonder at its beauty, and its sense of comfort and the fact that it was, unlike so many of the other beautiful displays, a simple key to what the season truly meant. That beauty and hope is everywhere, perhaps even locked inside a memory that only an old Christmas light could set free.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New York's Eastern Bloc

A Night in New York's East Village leads to the Iron Curtain
by Cody Lyon

The streets of New York’s East Village appear unusually quiet as those on the out, quickly return in, on this, the city’s first truly bone chilling Saturday night. Even the usual clusters of smokers who’ve been seen braving colder nights than this, appear smaller in numbers and more inconvenienced than usual.

But on Sixth Street, just beyond Avenue A, a cacophony of animated sounds escapes through a non descript red cinderblock wall to the cold sidewalk outside luring passersby with what sounds like warm and fun allure. Behind this iron curtain, lies the Eastern Bloc, a fun den of drinks and laughter, what could pass as the urban equivalent of a red-lit gay American roadhouse.

From wall to wall, heads sway to rhythm while others talk or stare as a muscled, tattooed go go dancer swirls around a bronze poll, surrounded by portraits of Soviet style art. Alongside Stalin, there’s a wild boar, over the bar a zebra’s head is crowned with a red star decorated military officer’s hat while in the back of the long, narrow space, sits a stuffed chicken, all part of the bar’s eclectic taxidermy and pulp fiction motif. Television screens flicker with obscure Japanese animation and vintage erotica as laughter, random shouts and catchy tunes from Beyonce to Zeppelin punctuate random conversations and flirtation.

On December 14th, Eastern Bloc Bar marks one year in business. The venture was built, and is owned and operated, by three first time entrepreneurs who learned the nightlife business where it teaches it’s best lessons, behind the bar.

“Excuse me” a man with a low riding red hat shouts with slow elongated vowels to the bartender working his way through customers, at least three thick.

Behind the bar, two of three owners, both shirtless and bulging with muscle, mix, fill and charge money for drinks ordered by the rambunctious Saturday night crowd.

“On the rocks” the man with the red hat says as the bartender raises a hand to his ear and shakes his head, “On the rocks!” he repeats more loudly as a barman’s tease earns them both some chuckles.

The third owner, also shirtless and the tallest of the three, spins music next to the chicken in the elevated DJ space at the rear of the room, keeping an eye on the crowd, as a cocktail of sound, booze and cruise keeps the night’s clientele crowing.

New York City’s Eastern Bloc Bar, is a creation of Benjamin Maisani of Paris, Darren Dryden of Portland Oregon and Gabriel Beaton from Portland Maine. Arriving in New York at separate moments, the three came together as co-workers while bartending at the Barracuda bar, a wildly successful space in Chelsea. After great soul searching and personal financial assessment they decided to strike out on their own.

The three pooled resources and secured the former Wonder Bar space on Sixth Street, then, all pretty much on their own, began the long arduous days and nights of general carpentry, painting and design of their new bar.

“The bar was in shambles” said Sixth Street resident, current New York City Public School teacher as well as Eastern Bloc’s moonlighting weekend coat check attendent, John Grauwiler. He said the restoration and design was no small challenge for the do it yourself contractors, and their carpentry savvy friends.

But even greater challenges lay ahead.

For one, competition and how to keep the bar filled with patrons. The three’s labor of love would be joining about 60 other Manhattan bars that cater primarily to the LGBT community according to figures compiled from the available listings of a local gay nightlife magazine. And the East Village is home to one of the city’s higher concentrations of gay bars.

But, the three welcomed healthy competition.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge facing the three owners was a name, and subsequently the bar’s unique concept.

“That was the biggest struggle so far” said co owner Gabriel Beaton, known as Gabe, while accepting deliveries and recalling their business adventure with the other two owners a few days before the cold Saturday night.

“We originally wanted to call it Revolver” he said as the three got laughed about a name already taken by a bar in LA no less.

Eastern Bloc became a clever all encompassing play on words that appreciates geography, but also historical symbolism.

“It’s in the East Village, and it’s an old Polish and Russian neighborhood, it wasn’t silly or obnoxious, it just kept coming back to us” said Darren Dryden, the Oregonian.

And, there’s no denying the historical irony and unspoken sense of triumph over the oppression and drabness that much of the Eastern Bloc once represented. In fact, from 1934 to 1986, the Soviet Union criminalized homosexuality, considering it to be a product of western decadence, landing thousands of gays in gulags.

Inside this 2006 New York City version of the Eastern Bloc, a little decadence was acceptable, perhaps encouraged.

“We want people to have fun” and that’s why “we play music that’s fun, that the crowd likes” said Dryden who often swaps out DJ duties with Beaton.

“People come here and they do have fun” chirps in Maisani in a still distinct French accent.

Maisani and the other two bartenders appear not only business wise, but strikingly smart. For example, each discusses politics, art and history with confidence and ease, obviously armed with knowledge, facts and insight. Maisani, who’s first language is French, received highest academic honors when he graduated New York’s Hunter College in 1999 where he majored in art history.

“I fell into bars totally by chance” he said.

“I was working 9-5 at a museum and then discovered I liked these (bar) hours and the freedom it afforded me” said Maisani who noted that the most popular liquor in the bar, like Russia, is Vodka.

So, besides selling booze and making money, what’s the measure of a successful bar for these three bartenders slash owners?

“Sometimes, people come here and they leave with fun, hopefully interesting, stories” noted Gabe Beaton, the youngest of the trio.

And apparently, it is fun they are having on any given night inside the Eastern Bloc Bar, an interesting place that is the antithesis of drab or oppressed. So far, the young new funky nightspot is not only earning and maintaining a solid regular clientele, they’ve succeeded in becoming a spot on the East Village drinking trail, a cherished position in an area saturated by nightlife.

So, on a cold Saturday night as temperatures plunged and the wind blew, the iron curtain that descended over the East Village just over a year ago, kept revelers warm inside its triumphant, decadent and party filled borders. Rest assured, some really interesting stories would be told later that week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Uncomfortable Truth of a Mandatory Draft

The Uncomfortable Truth of a Mandatory Draft
By Cody Lyon

No, No said incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California as she quietly but firmly shook her head at a reporter. She spoke the firm no’s this past Monday, during what appeared to be a smile filled photo session that concluded a meeting between her and incoming House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland.

While cameras flashed and she and Hoyer small talked, the reporter asked Pelosi, point blank, if she would support a proposal by New York Democratic Representative Charles Rangel, to re-introduce a mandatory military draft in the United States.

Rangel first introduced similar legislation back in June 2003.

Although she spoke softly, the O’s in Pelosi’s no’s were clearly enunciated.

Representative Pelosi knows that a mandatory draft in the United States would be the political equivalent of selling bacon wrapped beef filet to customers at a vegan restaurant. Polls show that less than 20 percent of the American people support a draft. And, both Pelosi and Rangel acknowledge that reinstatement of a mandatory draft is about as likely as Hillary not running for President.

Silly comparisons aside, on Monday, Pelosi was careful to pay accolades to the greater message in Rangel’s draft proposal calling it a “good way to make a point.”

“It’s not about a draft, its about shared sacrifice in our country” Pelosi told reporters earlier that day.

By proposing a highly controversial draft, Rangel, a purple heart, bronze star veteran of the Korean war is asking tough, soul searching, fear provoking questions of the American people. Make note of Rangel’s observation of the obvious in May 2005.

“In my own view, the war option would not be on the table if the people being placed in harms way were children of the White House officials, member of congress or CEO’s in board rooms” said Rangel in a press release that year.

Most CEO, White House and Congressional offspring do not choose the cash bonuses and promises of free education available at the local military recruitment office.

But, that’s not to say that the draft would serve as some sort of military equalizer.

The Vietnam War demonstrated that the rich, famous and well connected in America have ways of avoiding military conflict. Allegedly, our own President avoided seeing combat in Vietnam by utilizing high-end contacts that instead resulted in service with the Alabama National Guard.

If the draft were still mandatory, in particular, if it were during this war, people with power would probably find ways to avoid going.

But by going to the trouble of avoiding one’s call to duty, a citizen is forced into an examination of conscience, and in America’s current case, a deeper quest to understand the facts behind what your nation is fighting for.

Without a mandatory draft, the United State’s collective conscience can remain somewhat comforted by the knowledge that recruits sign up by choice, and are compensated by money, the promise of a free education or the honor of serving one’s country at will. The lack of the draft provides an almost uncanny convenience to not truly digest the seriousness and potential loss of what war presents on a sincerely personal level.

Currently, the United States, a country of 300 million, has about 2.7 million members in its all-volunteer armed forces. Mandatory military service has become a foreign concept. For most of us, this has led to at least one degree of separation from the frightening reality that military service can lead to. Truth be told, most American civilians are not that worried about getting called up and told they must serve.

In fact, most Americans do not experience the gut wrenching pain and fear associated with a child, spouse or parent that is seeing combat. Nor do a majority of American teenagers live with the fear that they may be shipped off to fight in war. Draft cards stopped arriving in American mailboxes over 30 years ago and Americans no longer see images of them being burned in protest.

Instead, we debate the war, and its policy, from a somewhat safe place.

With uncertain talk of troop increases in Iraq, military recruiters, under great pressure from higher ups, go out, look for and find young people to fill ranks in the nation’s armed forces. They offer college tuition, increased sign up bonuses and a salary along with the chance to defend one’s country. Some critics of the all-volunteer force say, in harsh terms, the reality is that we are willing to pay people to die for us during war-time.

Proponents of the volunteer force point to our highly skilled and efficient forces. But, one can rest assured, that military recruiters are more common in Rangel’s Harlem than Pelosi’s district in San Francisco.

As families gather and celebrate our Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States, one hopes for a wealth of thanks and blessings for the men and women placed in harm’s way by its leaders. But, one also gives thanks to gravely voiced Rep. Charles Rangel. This Harlem Democrat brought a provocative covered side dish of truth, to go with the turkey being served this year at thanksgiving tables across America. One hopes that all Americans will at least give the truth a taste.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Addendum on (Below) Bob Perry Story
By Cody Lyon

On Election Day November 7th, The Associated Press reported in “The York Dispatch” that Pennsylvania Republican Gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann received $100 thousand from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry during the final two weeks of the state's Governor's campaign.

Swann's opponent, current Democratic Governor Ed Rendell, had vetoed legislation this past March, that would have implemented legal procedures similar to those in Texas that now send homebuyer/homebuilder disputes into Arbitration instead of civil courts.

In March, “The Philadelphia Inquirer” had reported that Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett thought the vetoed bill was unconstitutional since it set limits on damages for defective workmanship and that it intruded on the state’s Supreme Court.

The Bill had been strongly supported by the Pennsylvania Builders Association.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cyclists Battle for Space on New York City Streets

The Battle for Space on New York City's Streets (opinion)
By Cody Lyon

New York City, unlike most American urban areas, offers numerous transportation alternatives beyond the private automobile. Walking is wonderful and the extensive 24-hour mass transit system is certainly quick and convenient. But nothing is more exhilarating, efficient and enjoyable than getting on a bicycle zipping through the crowded streets of New York City, provided the rider does not mind assuming the role of transit pioneer and cycling soldier.

New York City has made great attempts to accommodate cycling commuters and recreational riders on its streets. The city maintains about 400 miles of bike paths and greenways. The March 2006 issue of “Bicycling Magazine” said New York City is the third best cycling city in the United States. The city’s Department of Planning printed and distributed over 200 thousand copies of its map of city greenways and recommended street routes this year. One of the goals of the map is to “recognize bikes as a legitimate mode of transportation” according to the Department of Planning.

But, truth be told, there is a daily battle occurring on the streets of New York City between automobiles and bicycles. Automobiles, whose weight is measured in tons and speeds capable of triple digits, maintain the clear safety advantage over the pedaling human eggshells called cyclists. Cyclists glide through streets on two wheels all the while dodging arrogant SUVÂ’s, cumbersome bullying busses and manic trucks on deadlines making deliveries to homes and businesses across the five boroughs. Yellow Cabs race for fare paying customers, phantom looking black sedans zip through lanes ignoring all around them and lost or intoxicated commuters attempt to pass, cut in front of or compete for parking in the chaotic, poorly policed traffic choked streets of New York City.

In addition to the unpredictable cars, cyclists must be on the lookout for the thousands of Carries and Bills, who while frantically discussing the evening’s plans or an earlier lunchtime meeting on their cell phone, tend to jaywalk, wonder aimlessly into a crosswalk or bike lane, disregarding traffic signals or worse yet, completely ignoring the moving human on the bike headed right for them. Perhaps they’re on the phone chatting with the countless car drivers who forgot that there is a law that “prohibits” cell phone use while driving. And then, there is the inconsiderate cab passenger who insists on not looking back for the approaching bike, instead hurling the car door open, bags in tow, as if he or she meant scare the stranger on the bike. Of course this careless but common New York move has the ability to send a cyclist flying head first directly into a serious head or back injury or even death. And, Lord knows, riding a bike at night in New York is a crapshoot all its own. While cyclists are slightly safer with a headlight, there is no protection from the masculine challenged hot rod types who seek to impress passengers and pedestrians on the sidewalk with high-speed antics, burnt rubber and deafening music that ignores any sense of the ongoing crowded reality of life carrying on around them. And, there’s no ignoring Little Lucy Hummer girl, who drives with blinds through the streets of Soho , feeling safe in her tank, but wreaking havoc on the young woman with flowers in the basket of her bike, as she tries to make it home for dinner.

It is true that some pedal power types are less than angelic, sometimes brazen. Some bikers embody what it means to be a menace. Nothing is more infuriating than an errant biker, running against the signal through traffic lights, those who go the incorrect direction on one way streets, those who terrorize elderly folks by jumping up on the sidewalks and displaying what appears the cyclistÂ’s version of inconsiderate dangerous transportation arrogance. Often this behavior is remedied by a good New York tongue -lashing. But in reality, the menace that bikes present to pedestrians pales in comparison to the real dangers that cyclists face on city streets.

Cyclists are in a psychological, political and legal battle for acceptance of biking as a legitimate mode of transit in New York City. The battle has led to competing visions of what urban life in the Big Apple and other cities can and should be. It is still risky to pedal to a destination in the city.

According to a Joint Report prepared by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, The Parks and Recreation Department, Transportation Department and the NYPD the battle for acceptance on the street continues to take a significant toll. 3,462 cyclists were seriously injured in crashes with motor vehicles between 1995 and 2003 and unfortunately, between 1996 and 2005, 225 cyclists were killed in crashes. Eleven cyclists have died in crashes so far this year.

New York’s Transportation Alternatives, a non profit organization that advocates for safer walking, bicycling and sensible transportation, notes that New York has the highest number of pedestrian and cycling deaths in the U.S. The majority of all traffic fatalities in New York City are cyclist and pedestrian deaths. Cyclists were 12 times more likely than car occupants to get killed than car occupants in traffic accidents according to a study by Professor John Pucher PhD and Lewis Dijkstra PhD that was published in the “American Journal of Public Health” in 2003. That same study noted that per km per trip cycled, American bicyclists are twice as likely to get killed as German cyclists and over three times as likely to get killed as Dutch cyclists.

Dutch envy is in order when one considers that from 1978 to 1996, Holland more than doubled its already extensive network of bike paths. In addition, there are increasing numbers of “bike streets” in both Holland and Germany. On those streets, cars are “permitted” but cyclists have the right of
way over the entire breadth of the roadway. One wonders what the results of such an urban refuge on Broadway, Fifth Avenue or any busy street in an American city would be. The results might show up in lower obesity rates and slightly decreased levels of car exhaust. Maybe too, American cities, like New York, would find that individuals who ride a bike to get around, are in better spirits thanks to the raised levels of endorphins that exercise like cycling has been proven to increase.

New York’s Transportation Alternative’s roots are in bicycling. The organization, with its extensive cache of cycling data, attributes a great deal of the dangers that pedestrians and cyclists face to automobile driver’s “widespread speeding and a general disrespect for cyclists and pedestrians. In spite of increasing environmental concerns, gas prices and the general frustration of commuting by automobile, we continue to invest heavily in the endless cycle of road infrastructure and highway expansion. Plain and simple, the car is still king on the streets of America.

Despite the carÂ’s dominance, an estimated 120 thousand New Yorkers put their legs, lungs and hearts through an exhilarating but often nerve racking work out by hopping on bikes, pedaling from Point AÂ’s to BÂ’s throughout the busy Big Apple streets each day. In spite of real dangers, it is still the fastest way to get around the city. Riding through the streets of New York offers amazing views, smells and sounds real connections to the souls of each passing block and neighborhood, experiences that the protected bubble of an automobile denies. But, bikers must share the road with the up to one million automobiles that enter the crowded streets each day as well. In spite of the formidable overwhelmingly vast army of gas guzzling, road hogging sometimes erratically driven horn honking machines, the bikers pedal on.

This year, the city promised that it was going to move forward with the addition of 200 miles in new bike lanes. Hopefully, in the future, these bike lanes will be more than marks on the road that some cars tend to ignore. Bike lanes in New York are usually sandwiched between parked cars on one side and moving cars on the other. They are certainly not the most ideal solution, but they are better than nothing at all.

Cycling advocates should continue the fight for safer biking conditions and greater road space in New York and other cities. Those on the frontlines of the battle, the cyclists themselves, should try to ride safely by the rules while encouraging friends to join them for a recreational ride or a trip to another neighborhood for dinner or a movie. Businesses and other institutions would be well served to provide facilities for changing and showering so that employees can cycle to work. Cyclists should remember what the automobile figured out years ago when they took over the roads and seized power in government, that there is power in numbers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Gay Bash Highway of Lies and Division

The Gay Bash Highway of Lies and Division
By Cody Lyon
Right wing organizations are working overtime to convince their flocks that gays and their “deviant” lifestyles are somehow to blame for the Mark Foley, page and text messaging scandal still unfolding in Washington. Republican party leaders and strategists, who’s knees are surely knocking with fear about November 7th, appear to have given a green light to the loudspeakers of the far Right, with the hopes that the false “all gays are pedophiles” rhetoric might shift voter focus from those who bear real responsibility in what appears to be a cover-up. So, in attempt to fire up the base, they dispatched some of the usual suspects of the Conservative Right onto the politically popular gay bash highway. Along this highway will be mistruths, lies and hypocrisy, current Republican Party strengths.

Concerned Women of America kicks off the campaign of misinformation with a divisive approach stating “The fact that Americans find Rep. Foley’s alleged conduct reprehensible shows we have not bought into the false ideology that all sex should be celebrated” and “not all diversity should be accepted.” The official CWA statement sums it up with “some lifestyles, such as aberrant sexual behavior, are just too damaging to individuals, and that society and especially children should be protected from them.”

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out which lifestyles CWA finds aberrant.

Linda Harvey over at Mission America is a little more blunt when she says of Mark Foley “like many homosexual men, he likes young teen boys”

Over in another important, high profile corner of the “right”, Tony Perkins, leader of the “Family Research Council” said “pro-homosexual activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two.”

Perkins turns up the heat arguing that “almost all child molesters are male and less than 3% of men are homosexual, about a third of all child sex abuse cases involve men molesting boys—and in one study, 86% of such men identified themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”

The statistics he cites are from a report assembled by Perkin’s own Family Research Council.

Titled “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse” this report was written by Dr. Timothy J. Dailey, a staffer at FRC. Dailey’s Ph.D is in Religion, not psychology. The report was first made public at the height of the Catholic Church Priest scandal. Within its contents, FRC cites work and evidence from studies written and compiled by A. Nicholas Groth, Ph.D.

Note that in a June 2002 letter later published by the Human Rights Campaign, Dr. Groth wrote to the Family Research Council asking that his name be withdrawn from the FRC’s report. Groth wrote “homosexual men pose less risk of sexual harm to children from both an absolute and a percentage incidence rate-than heterosexual males.” Groth also said in the same letter “I would appreciate your removing any reference to my work in your paper lest it appear to the reader that my research supports your views.”

Further disputing the current Right Wing blame game campaign is the fact that The American Psychological Association, The American Academy of Child Psychiatrists, The National Association of Social Workers and The Child Welfare League of America have all stated that there is no correlation between homosexuality and child abuse.

But, of course that won’t prevent the occasionally loose-lipped disciples of Right at Fox News from making some correlations of their own as they did the other night on Bill O’Reilly’s show.

FOX Reporter Major Garret bantered with Bill O’Reilly on September 29th about Foley’s behavior worrying that “It raises suspicions that never had before surfaced publicly about whether or not Mark Foley’s sexual orientation in any way impacts his job—this is the first time those two things have been joined together” said Garret.

90’s Republican Revolution king, Former House Leader Newt Gingrich jumped on the current Republican meltdown claiming on the same network that if Party leaders had acted to quickly to call out Foley on his inappropriate behavior, they might have been accused of gay bashing.

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Vice President Denis Dison told the “San Francisco Chronicle” that “it’s an absurd notion to say the (Republican) leadership is so afraid of offending gay people that they’d let a child predator stay in office, while they aren’t afraid of trying to amend the constitution.”

In the desperate attempt to fire up the conservative base, the barrage of falsehoods and mistruths will probably continue to flow. Republicans will do their best to shirk responsibility for its leader’s negligence in this disturbing episode. And, since it’s a well known fact that the GOP big tent never really rolled out a red carpet for gay people, who better to sacrifice than homosexuals.

In a recent e-mail statement, The National Gay Lesbian Task Force chairman Matt Foreman said “the GOP has one response when it’s in trouble—blame the gays.”

Perhaps he is correct in this instance. Gay marriage was a sure fire issue that energized evangelical voters in the last Presidential election. When the party is seeking to fire up its base, gay is the way.

The gay bash highway leads to an even more dangerous freeway of divisive and nasty politics that the United States will hopefully soon exit.

There are darker truths that rise to the surface within the Foley scandal. Thus far, much of the Right Wing and Republican response to hypocrite Foley’s misdeeds smells of the purest form of corrupt and smarmy political rot.

The LGBT civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign’s President Joe Solomonese wrote in the “Huffington Post” that “If Republicans are smart they will admit their complicity, establish safeguards to better protect these young pages and realize that blaming gay America for their misdeeds and mishandling won’t fly this time.”

From the White House down, the recent incarnation of the Republican Party power has cultivated a political culture that thrives on false correlations and mistruths. Accepting blame is not an acceptable option. Selling lies, pointing fingers, making false correlations between unrelated issues while planting seeds of fear and doubt has become what they do best. Dividing the country is what they’ve done.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


(photo courtesy Anthony German)


On a cool, clear September 11th 2006, at around one in the afternoon, two friends riding bicycles met at a fountain just off Christopher Street alongside the Hudson River in New York City. The fountain was the pre-chosen starting point for the two friend’s annual pilgrimage downtown to ground zero, a ritual they’ve repeated for the past four years. The two friends, both in New York during the attacks of 2001, experienced the immediate effects of the disaster in different ways. One witnessed United Flight 175’s crash into the South Tower from his fifth floor Soho apartment. Unbeknownst to him at the time, an old friend was on that plane. He later watched both buildings collapse from his building’s roof.

The other friend, at the time a resident of East 14th Street, was at first oblivious to the event’s magnitude. He was on his way to work at the World Financial Center finding himself underground for over two hours in a Subway tunnel when the towers fell. When he was finally evacuated at City Hall station, just a few blocks from the collapse, he emerged among dust and smoke in a changed world.

For the next few months, both friends, like millions of New York residents, inhaled the smell of death, experienced pain that still has the ability to overcome joy but all the while experiencing a new sense of connectivity with their city.

The two, one originally from Alabama, the other from Germany, had met through friends just a few months after 9/11. They first bonded that June at a large outdoor dance party on the Westside pier at 13th Street. As fireworks blasted and a disco version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” played, the two took in the new downtown skyline, discussed the event and shed tears as the one who lost his friend in the crash, began to talk about his lost friend’s zest for life.

“He was such a fun guy, he’d be here now, if he were around” he said, with an almost empty smile on his face.

The bond between the two new made friends was instant.

Over four years later, pedaling slowly to Ground Zero down the bike path along the Hudson, several persons, some with photographs of smiling faces, wedding pictures or individuals in other happy moments, passed by. One elderly couple dressed in sensible shoes and matching white top’s, each wearing a photograph of a smiling bright eyed woman, held hands as they walked on the path uptown. Men and women in uniform walked by, many with peaceful expressions that have long since dealt with the horror and loss this day represents. Motorcycles, many with POW flags, whizzed by on the highway, while honking horns blew in the distance from back at Christopher Street, an area now called Point Gratitude.

When the two reached the Hudson side of the former World Trade Center as bells rang in the distance, the two friends paused and separated.

As they stood among TV trucks, law enforcement officials and other observers, dust and dirt from the pit, one of Manhattan’s rare un-paved, plant free massive patches of earth, kicked up into the sky like a giant wave crashing against the sea wall. Interestingly, on the first anniversary of the horrors, dust had swirled from the freshly cleared site where the towers fell, in almost poetic cyclonic motion high into the sky.

This year it was different.

The two then rode a little further downtown, crossed the West Side Highway, hopped off the bikes and walked among the crowds past the Deutsche Bank building and around the corner headed towards the site itself. As they walked towards Liberty Street, now a giant observation area, they came upon Engine/Ladder Company 10, the firefighter’s station directly across from where the twin towers once stood.

On the side of the buildings wall, is the 56 foot bronze memorial structure that honors members of the New York City Fire department who died just across the street from the fire-station. The dramatic interactive memorial, designed by Martin V. Rambusch of the Rambusch Decorating Company, a gift from the Holland and Knight Law firm, was dedicated this past June 6, the four year anniversary of the conclusion of Fire Department recovery operations.

The top of the firefighter’s memorial reads “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on- May we never forget.”

The wall was dotted with photographs of victims, mostly firefighters with names like Scott Larsen and Michael Kieffer.

Flowers and candles covered the base of the memorial and at one end of the structure, a large stuffed red heart that said in big gold letters, Angel.

All around, tears began their slow decent down countless faces forever marked by pain while the bells continued tolling in chaotic rhythms in the background.

While people of all shapes, shades and sizes stood quietly staring, reflecting or mourning, the two friends slipped into the huge shuffling crowds that moved at the steady pace of deceased head of state’s viewing.

Once past the site, the two crossed the street to find the bells they’d been hearing, four of them, all around the size of the famous one in Philadelphia, hanging at waist’s height with large ropes attached so that anyone could walk up and ring one in tribute to the fallen.

But, the earlier reverence was overshadowed by the piercing anger of protests competing for ears, cameras and notepads.

To some, the sadness of 9/11’s memory has been overshadowed by a tragic evolution of national and world events, politics and the selfish evidence of National division on vivid display at Ground Zero.

Clearly, the long extinguished flames of 9/11 continue to cast a pungent smell over a dvided nation and tumultuous world.

In the crowded blocks surrounding the 16 acres that changed the world, the smell was stronger than ever. The two friends inhaled the scene and mood around them in disoriented silence and sad awe.

Many in the crowd appeared to revel in the division, the conspiracy folks who claim “Bush knew” with their shrill condemnation of all that is mainstream to the “we support the President and our troops” crowd, brimming with self righteous certitude and shallow patriotic arrogance.

One wonders, if the angry people pointing, accusing, shouting and politically exploiting the deaths of nearly 3000 innocent souls had lost a loved one when the towers fell. In fact, one wonders if members of this circus were even in New York City on this day back in 2001.

According to a “New York Times” “CBS News” poll, around one third of New Yorker’s think about September 11th terrorist attacks every day.

As the two friends made their way through the newly formed town square, a police officer said she didn’t find the protesters offensive.

“They have a right to do and say what they want” she said.

Such is the beauty of a free society. But, had any of the shouting, pointing and exploiting people taken some time to go over to the memorial wall at Engine Company 10, and if they had, did they take a moment to digest and understand what it means to not forget?

The two friends had completed their annual ritual in less than two hours. It was time to get on their bikes, ride back uptown to the village, and contemplate all that has been lost.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006



On August 21st, at a White House press conference, President Bush warned that pulling out of the conflict in Iraq would threaten United States security. The President appeared to be using his bully pulpit as political turf marker in the upcoming fall elections, painting supporters of the continued occupation as being tough on terror compared to the unwise cut n run types who call for a reduced presence. In truth, if the President were keeping it real, his criticisms of vocal war critics who say cut the losses ASAP, are merely disguised attempts at silencing those who tell the truth about the poorly run mission in Iraq and its continued grim and dangerous state of affairs.

But, after he had sarcastically called the Democratic Party the “Democrat” party, he tried to slip in a common Bush administration subliminal ad, the discussion of Iraq and September 11th in the same sentence. Fortunately, an alert reporter decided to call the President out, asking, “what did Iraq have to do with that?”

The President, clearly miffed, answered “Nothing” adding that no one in the administration had ever suggested Saddam Hussein ordered the attack on New York and Washington.

Now really Mr. President, let’s not get huffy and muddle the truth like mint in a Mojito.

Perhaps no one in the administration ever publicly stated, word for word, that Saddam Hussein had a direct hand in the attacks of 9/11, but we do know that members of the administration were quick to look for, and use, any shred of evidence that could possibly be linked to the attacks, and that those shreds were then used as public justification, or associative P.R. if you will, for an invasion of that country and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a long held and determined goal of key members of the Bush White House.

Outspoken opponents of the invasion have always dismissed the stated intentions of the Bush administration in Iraq. For one, opponents did not believe it was America’s duty to de-throne the murderous dictator that Saddam Hussein was. Others subscribed to the common belief that the war was about Iraqi gold, commonly known as oil. These were all debates that could have been held in an honest public policy forum. Instead, the Public Relations road to Iraq was sinister and down right sneaky. There were attempts to mislead, confuse and spook the American people. Individuals as well as politicians saw their patriotism questioned. Members of the administration along with a number of Republican leaders helped along by a media in passive mode and little vocal Democratic opposition were successful at lumping all the Allah worshiping nations together as one in the minds of millions of American voters, who were still hurting and angry after the attacks of 9/11. An underreported truth was the fact that top members of the Bush administration, neo-conservatives who had actually anointed Bush as a Presidential candidate and brought him up to speed on their version of foreign affairs, had long wanted to rid the world of Hussein, and use Iraq as the bargain Bazaar of American style democracy. The second in command, Dick Cheney himself, was an active member of a group run by William Kristol that included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld among others, called Project for the New American Century, which as early as 1998, had called on then President Clinton for military action in Iraq that would overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Once in positions of power, the kingmakers like Rumsfeld and Cheney were not so naïve to think that the American people would support an unprovoked American invasion of Iraq. The tragic events of 9/11 provided the Bush Administration with the carte blanche the Administration needed for the invasion and a subsequent outpost for American style democracy.

The potholed road of deceit to Iraq began just hours after the 9/11 attacks. According to a 2002 CBS News report by correspondent David Martin, Donald Rumsfeld was already in the express lane.

Martin’s report cited notes taken by Don Rumsfeld aides that quoted the Defense Secretary as saying he wanted the “best information fast”. The notes continued with “judge whether good enough to hit Saddam Hussein”.

“Go massive” and “Sweep it all up. Things related and not” said Rumsfeld in the notes according to the CBS.

The Bush Administration campaign to convince Americans of a link between 9/11 and Iraq continued in speeches, television appearances and press conferences according to a report by Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank at the “Washington Post” in June 2004

-In the later part of 2001, Dick Cheney said it was “pretty well confirmed” that September 11th mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official before the attacks, in April 2000 in Prague.

-In May 2003, President Bush said “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror.” Of Iraq, the President said “we’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding.”

-In September of 2004, Vice President Cheney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “If we’re successful in Iraq…then we will have struck a major blow at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.”

-Cheney also said on the same episode of “Meet the Press” that “The Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the 90’s.”

In a March 2003 prime time news conference where the President was discussing war plans for Iraq, the President mentioned September 11th eight times. The President mentioned Saddam Hussein several more times than that, often in the same sentence that he spoke of September 11th.

Unfortunately, no one really challenged the manipulative 9/11-Iraq charade flowing from the administration. Democrats appeared to be asleep actually falling for the associative allegations while the media had a field day, blasting dramatic background musical introductions to news reports and graphic “war on terror” banners and language as it prepared to embed reporters on tanks for what everyone thought would be a quick antiseptic war in Arab land.

A week after the March press conference, Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland told the “Christian Science Monitor” “The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection between September 11th and Saddam Hussein.”

The United States began military action in Iraq on March 20th, 2003.

By the fall of that same year in September, the BBC was confirming Kull’s earlier assertion, reporting that 70% of Americans polled believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks of 9/11.

But, fast forward a few blood soaked years to August 2006 as more disturbing facts bubble to the surface and the war shows its more complicated side. A CBS/New York Times poll is reporting that 51% of Americans now think of the war in Iraq as “separate” from the overall war on terror and 63% think the war in Iraq has made Americans less safe from terrorism according to another poll conducted for the newsmagazine “Newsweek”

Most of the alleged relationships between the Islamic fundamentalist al Qaeda and the secular tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq originally charged by Bush Administration members were disputed by the findings of the September 11th Commission in 2004. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that Osama Bin Laden had at one time “sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
Meanwhile, somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan or perhaps our ally Pakistan sits the Godfather of an organization that murdered 3,000 innocent people on a clear crisp September morning.

Another 3000 American lives, countless injuries, an estimated 40 thousand Iraqi lives and $300 billion later, a decidedly more unstable anti-American world has begged the awful question of us all, were we deceived?

Monday, August 14, 2006

East Village Observation: A Testament to Immigration Threatened

Architectural Testament to New York’s Immigrants Threatened
By Cody Lyon
On a warm Thursday evening at around 8pm, around 50 former parishioners, neighborhood activists and other community members gathered on a corner at a loosely organized vigil in New York’s East Village for the St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church building. Earlier that morning, a demolition crew from A. Russo Wrecking Company had begun the destruction of the old structure, knocking a large hole in the back of the yellow boxy building that has been sitting on the same corner for 158 years. The New York Archdiocese, which disbanded the parish in 2004, has said the building is unsafe, in danger of collapse, and that it plans to demolish the structure so that it can use the corner property for other purposes fitting its mission.

The humble, yet grand structure is a testament to working class immigrants who after escaping the Irish potato famine, made lives in New York and built a church they could be proud of. In later years, the church became home to many of the neighborhood’s new immigrants, Latino Catholics. The building stands on the corner of 8th Street and Avenue B casting its familiar golden yellow reflection on the new generations from other corners of the world, who play or pass leisure time directly across the street in Tompkins Square Park. Architect Patrick Keely’s ‘Gothic Carpenter’ structure has seen countless parishioners share faith and find community in what used to be a working class neighborhood known as the Dry Dock District. Over the years, the old church bore witness to the numerous transformations of an area that some still say is New York’s most colorful and arguably diverse. Trendy bars, boutiques and high rents are more accurate testaments to today’s East Village.

And with this change, comes a commonly New York dilemma.

The city’s changing face and church going habits have resulted in declining membership throughout most of the borough’s houses of worship. With declining memberships comes declining funding for individual up-keep and building usefulness and when paired with the rising value of the land they sit on, makes for heated battles between preservationists and building owners, who recognize the potential profits of land use and air rights.

Being the largest owner of religious properties in the city, The New York Archdiocese has been forced to re-align its finances, leading to difficult choices that have included the closing of several parishes, including St Brigid’s, which was disbanded in 2004. The properties that these buildings sit on have increased in value at a remarkable pace over the past few years, which could provide the Archdiocese with much needed revenue.

Andrew Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University said of St Brigid’s slated demolition “the most recent parallel is St Thomas Roman Catholic Church in Harlem” the 1907 ecclesiastical church on St Nicholas Avenue designed by Thomas Poole. After closing the Harlem church, the Archdiocese actually began demolition of the structure for a housing development but was interrupted because of community opposition. That church remains standing, but padlocked, in deteriorating condition and still slated for demolition.

The increasingly heated battle in the East Village between those who want to save the building and The Archdiocese of New York has gained increasing attention over the past few weeks. One weekly community newspaper quoted an anonymous resident who said she hoped the building’s destruction would raise her property values. Most coverage has profiled efforts by community activists, preservationists and former parishioners to save St. Brigid’s. The Archdiocese has been vague in most of its responses to questions about future plans for the property.

At the Thursday vigil, as thunder roared, breezes blew and lightning crackled across the evening sky, candles were lit, and participants sang the Rosary in Spanish. Then, as the curious stopped by to listen, speakers that included City Council-person Rosie Mendez spoke to an increasingly informed group of East Village residents, many who were un-aware of the church’s planned fate.

“If they destroy this building, they destroy the history and architecture that it’s inside it and there is nothing that can bring it back” said Council person Mendez.

“ We’re going to be in court tomorrow, and we’re hoping we can stop this” Mendez shouted from the sidewalk, supported by crutches thanks to a broken ankle.

The former parishioner’s attorney had argued to save the building based on a technicality, that when the Archdiocese applied for a demolition permit last February, there was no properly convened board vote included former parishioners of St. Brigid’s.

Moments later, Mendez said of the men running the Archdiocese “they ultimately make the decisions.”

“I think a lot of communities in Manhattan are vulnerable, because of real estate speculation” Mendez said, noting that many Catholic church’s are located on prime Manhattan real-estate markets.

Some observers speculate that preservationists, neighborhood activists and former parishioners expect The New York Archdiocese to bankroll church preservation efforts.

Not so say opponents of the church’s destruction. In fact, The Committee to Save St Brigid’s Church points out that an anonymous donor once offered fair market value to the New York Archdiocese to purchase and restore the church, but, according to committee members, the Archdiocese refused to even meet with the individual.

Archdiocese spokesperson Joseph Zwilling told “Village Voice” in an August 3rd article that the Archdiocese does not exist to create monuments but instead to serve “the needs of people consistent with the Catholic mission and purposes of the Archdiocese of New York.”

Opponents of the church’s destruction see an archdiocese bowing to financial pressure caused in part by Priest scandal lawsuits. There is no denying the huge profits tucked into the land St Brigid’s sits on. So, as some demolition opponents see it, the Archdiocese quietly slipped in and began the destruction of St Brigid’s, un-announced. But, neighborhood eyes and ears on the ground quickly informed other concerned residents, leading to temporary halt in demolition, the evening vigil and sudden groundswell of opposition.

Harry Kresky, the lawyer representing The Coalition to Save St. Brigid’s, says he called the New York Archdiocese lawyer earlier that day, and asked for a delay in demolition while the court determined the church’s fate, to which an Archdiocese lawyer told him “no way” and hung up the phone.

Columbia’s Professor Dolkart said there had been examples in the past of church’s linking up with community groups to help raise money for the preservation of historic buildings offering The Universalist’s Church on Central Park West as an example.
Another alternative to demolition could be through private developer and community partnerships, as Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Julia Vitullo-Martin told the “New York Sun” in June.

In her article, she said “sensitive development that uses various tools like the transfer of development rights to preserve a house of worship while building profitable housing to pay for it.”

Regardless of alternatives, prospects at the Thursday night vigil sounded grim.

That night, lawyer Kresky told the crowd that he wished he could be more optimistic and hopeful, but “they were dealing with powerful players” offering harsh speculation that although it was cardinals and bishops running the Archdiocese, they were out of touch with the hearts and humanity in the community.

In an emotional voice-cracking plea, neighborhood resident and Committee member Carolyn Ratcliffe told the crowd “the church’s destruction rips the heart out of all us.”

“That church represents what this community stands for, it’s a place where immigrants came, where they found support, where they made a life, that’s us” said Ratcliffe.

True, Manhattan’s East Village is a place where immigrants came, and still do. But, most of those who now make the international neighborhood home have access to greater economic resources than those who escaped the potato famine.

And, as the neighborhood changed around it, time was taking a toll on the St Brigid’s building. A huge crack in the north wall, threatens the support of the building’s roof. A few years ago, parishioners raised over $103 thousand with stoop and yard sales for repairs to the building and turning the money over to the Archdiocese. According to participants at the vigil, the Archdiocese never applied the funds to the building’s repair. But, some realistic estimates on repair costs have been as high as $7 million, a far cry from the $100 thousand or so that has been raised to save the church by former parishioners and opponents of the proposed destruction.

A few observers believe that the Archdiocese has access to enough cash to leave the building standing and that it is ignoring the concerns of the local community.

Later that evening, as the lightning became more frequent, Betty Brassell, a 50-year East Village resident originally from Augusta Georgia, said “it’s a shame anybody with money would want to tear that beautiful church down.” With that, raindrops began to fall, and Brassell shuffled alongside Rosie Mendez down Avenue B towards home.

Before everyone had left, Vigil participants were told that the workers would be back at 7 that next morning. Protesters would be there to greet them.

The next morning, the men from A Russo were back at the church some using crowbars to knock out imported lead stained windows from Bavaria. As protesters watched, choking back tears, screaming at the ongoing demolition, a protester of the demolition appeared on the roof. By 9 am, windows on one side of the building destroyed, rubble piling up outside the hole in the back, an order came from the Department of Buildings to stop work because of un-safe demolition conditions. As workers sat idle in the heat, a DOB official sat quietly in his air-conditioned car.

When asked how long the stop work order would last, he said, “at the most two or three days.”

Further downtown in a courtroom action was being taken that might save the building for a little longer.

At 2 pm down at 60 Centre Street, the group opposing the demolition of St. Brigids Church received the decision they’d been praying for. Judge Barbara Kapnick signed a court order, temporarily halting the demolition of St. Brigid’s Church, at least until August 24.

Later that night, many of the same vigil participants from the night before, gathered again, this time, directly across the street from the church for a celebratory pep rally. By the time Council Person Rosie Mendez arrived with lawyer Harry Kresky, a large group of bicyclists, were passing through on Avenue B finishing their own protest for cycling rights. Fist’s raised in triumph the group on the street, which had grown in size, engaged the passing group to join the chant “save St. Brigids, Save St. Brigid’s!”

For now, the church’s long-term fate remains a mystery.

“No comment” as to the situation at St. Brigid’s according to Lisa de-Bourbon, a spokesperson for the City’s Landmarks Commission, an organization that with city council approval, has the power to save the structure.

So, for a few more days, the yellow church built by Irish immigrants will continue its role as an architectural icon in an ever-changing international neighborhood. The structure will remain, providing a window into a past that may, or may not have been as exciting as the present the old church is now witnessing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

America's Long Nightmare-Lieberman, Bush and Terror

America's Long Nightmare
by Cody Lyon

Relishing the “wave of voter revolt against Iraq” demonstrated by the victory of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, the organization “” gave itself a pat on the back for the defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut in an e-mail letter to supporters. The political action group, aligning Lieberman with the current President, told readers “our nation is awaking from the long nightmare of the Bush Presidency.”

Wow, if it were only that simple!

Move-On is still a long way from that de-luxe victory in the sky.

True, the defeat of Iraq invasion supporter Joe Lieberman, a three term Senator from the home state of enlightenment centers like Yale, deserves a victory cha cha dance by anti-Iraq war vocalists who feel the beat of victorious political drums. But, for the one quarter or so American voters who three years ago peered into the crystal ball of world events, and saw Iraq as a key that would unlock the lid to current Pandora’s box of horrors, this is no time to engage in bittersweet smirks.

The defeat of Joe Lieberman is a shot across the Political bow. But, it is hardly the most challenging battle that must be waged in the overwhelming quest to alter the mess our nation finds itself in now.

The challenge is to capture the attention of, and find a route into the hearts and minds of Americans across the country, so they fully understand and accept, that they were misled by an administration that manipulated intelligence and used shady, reckless and dishonest suggestive rhetoric to link fundamentalist radical terrorists to the secular tyrant we overthrew in Iraq. It all arrived in a neat little package called the "war on terror"

After Lieberman's defeat, The White House wasted no time in cranking up the manipulation machine again, hauling out Vice President Cheney who suggested to reporters that it might encourage “Al Queda types.”

The “New York Times” reported that Cheney said Lieberman was “pushed aside because of his aggressive posture in terms of our national security.”

But, in fact, our national security is less secure thanks to Iraq.

News of a foiled terrorist threat to airliners traveling from London to the United States, couldn’t come at a more politically opportune moment for the Bush administration who will, if the past is any indication, exploit this event as reason de jour to vote for like minded politicians who support their agenda.

The news channels will add spice and heat to the fire as they attempt to spike ratings, shipping star correspondents out of the real, war ravaged rivers of blood flowing in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel to report a story built on scary “what ifs” while warning travelers about long delays and frightening liquid explosives hidden in sports drinks.

In spite of all of this, there are signs that American’s are beginning to wake up and smell the political coffee, slowly realizing that it’s not freshly brewed, tossing this pot of Joe into the political sink for now.

What folks like Joe Lieberman failed to recognize as they kissed Bush and didn’t tell, is that they operate in states where large numbers of voters have seen through the Bush administration charade. It is unfortunate that back in the day, when real leaders could have made a difference in the turn of world events, there was silence or support for un-wise policy. As we speak, chops are being licked, as it becomes clear that Move-on... could move on up to another victory in the sky, if there were another one of those wealthy anti-war candidates on the streets of, say Manhattan, ready to knock the wind out of the Iraq war supporter Clinton's balloon, but only with the help of a truck-load of liberal bloggers. In the end, the sad truth is that our world is now a much more perilous place and our nation's current foreign policy has only contributed to the spills.

Wise leadership is what we are most hungry for.

Americans will not awaken to find that the Bush Presidency was a nightmare. Instead, we have to figure out a way to live with a less stable, more dangerous tragedy soaked world, a continuous barrage of anti-American hostility and an even more divided mean spirited domestic political system all thanks in great part to this administration’s policy.

It may feel good to see Joe Lieberman, a man many feel betrayed their core values, go down in defeat. But, this is high profile political revenge for supporting an unnecessary war that has left the Middle East a far more anti-American place, a place where, if we cut and run like a spoiled child there’d be even more hell to pay. So what's next for us?

The United States will have to live with and seek to repair the damage that has resulted from the sins of this reckless White House for many years to come. We will also live with the sins of powerful and less powerful private citizens who didn’t pay attention and have the where with all to ask tough questions. We’ll live with the sins of a neutered press that didn’t seize the moment and educate the public on the distinctions between 9/11, global terrorism and Iraq. And we will live with the sins of political figures like Joe Lieberman who apparently did not realize that being patriotic in Washington involves leadership and that a leader does not follow the example of a talented manipulator. Instead, being a leader requires that you have the courage to speak the truth.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Body and Soul



Although many New Yorkers grudgingly swear that more than half the
city’s residents are part of some loosely organized mass exodus to
a beach house on summer holiday weekends, those are actually the
weekends that the “left behind” can find the most memorable of New
York treats.

In fact, the non-jet ski set can sometimes find a dose of urban
spiritual nourishment that benefits the soul for months to come.

Not a religious experience, per se, but instead, a gathering of like
minded spirits, all very much alive, enjoying the fellowship of each
other, coming together for one reason, the music, at least that’s
what happened this past July 4th weekend.

The Body and Soul reunion party shook a collective booty to its core
at the PS-1 space in Queens, bringing together a cocktail of
cultures, families and sexual orientations that surely reminded
more than one participant that New York truly is a magnificent
mosaic as former Mayor David Dinkins once proclaimed.

Although Sunday afternoons at the Tribeca club Vinyl (later named
ARC) was the spot to meet the music on a weekly basis for many
years, the weekly Body and Soul party disbanded after facing
difficulty with the club space and other issues among the Djs and
organizers. But for one holiday weekend afternoon, Saturday from 3
til 9 was the time for church, as many of the party faithful liked
to call the Body and Soul experience, back in the day.

Djs Danny Krivit, Francois K and Joe Claussell did not disappoint a
crowd of thousands who had paid a ten dollar admission fee, and
another $6 each for ice cold draft beers that flowed far too easily
under a hot Queens sun in the concrete fortress of music at PS-1. The temperature kept getting hotter as a troubled nation moved another day closer to the 30 year anniversary of its highly celebrated bicentennial, a year that at least a third
of this party’s crowd, might actually remember.

A crowd wide chronic music infection was evidenced by smiles on faces
of every color of the human rainbow, every size on the scale, every
age from 3 to 65, all making moves to the beat of a different drum.
No judgment passed on who was cool and who was not, just pure
un-adulterated fun, joy, release and soul.

Occasionally, after a longer re-mix, or extended session people
would erupt into cheers and hollering this or that or whatever, it didn't matter as long as it felt good, real and true.

All the while, pulsing bodies poured in and out of the building at PS-1, moving among dancers on crowded steps that were crowned at the top with the DJ’s canopied booth. The sun gave everyone a glistening tone, some more than others, as sweat
flowed like a fountain, but, at this party, sweat was a badge of
success, a sign that you’d truly felt the light.

Speakers surrounded the main courtyard of the former school and
sound boomed against the old red brick walls rising up like a volcanic
eruption, only the lava was the sound, carried even further by
speakers in the back of the complex where others danced and played
in wading pools with their kids.

In its later years, Body and Soul saw pilgrimages by the curious
who’d heard about this place where the emphasis was on the music,
not the “scene.” Even European tourists began to make Body and
Soul part of the New York itinerary. According to those who’d
been, Sunday nights at Vinyl (ARC) were where one could still find
the real spirit of New York.

Certainly, like every nightclub party, there was rivalry,
differences, and any other number of shady events or normal human
interaction issues, but unlike most other dance club experiences,
Body and Soul was true to its name.

Martha Graham once said “I am absorbed in the magic of movement and
light. Movement never lies”.

Body and Soul did not lie to the participants left in the city this
past July 4th weekend. That day in Queens let everyone at PS-1 know
that movement is alive and well in New York City and New York is
still filled with magic.

Are you as open minded as you think out loud NYC???

;">A bashing in New York City and Politics make strange bed fellas
by Cody Lyon

This past Friday night, in New York's east village, the performer Kevin Aviance was assaulted by a group of men who taunted him with numerous anti-gay epithets. Aviance's face was beaten so severely, that he has to have his jaw wired shut for healing. Kevin's beating has resulted in outcry among the gay community, but also local public officials, including the Mayor, who called it unacceptable.

A brutal violation of dignity, not only adds another statistic to the hate crimes roster of NYC, but another grim reminder that quietly simmering homophobia, is still spewing fumes in homes and halls of power across America. Often, it appears that the gay community itself forgets, falsely assured by comfort zones like the Castro's, Christopher Streets, 8th Avenues or high profile television shows and celebrities. But then, along comes an incident right in your liberal bastion’s front yard.

New Yorkers are busy living individual lives, forgetting that like it or not, as a community we are involved, directly and indirectly, in a tug of war that is a battle for the full civil and individual rights of our very own self identity and being.

Over the past few months, there have been other allegedly hate based physically violent assaults involving friends or acquaintances that hit close to home for myself. It's been a blood boiling experience to hear about each of them. Face it, any attack that is motivated by the attacker’s perception that his victim is gay, is an attack on every individual gay person, regardless of how big one’s "gay" badge is. Hate crime perps may perceive a less masculine looking victim as weak and a prime target for violence, but, the hate, anger and insecurity motivating the behavior is directed towards all members of that group.

(IN spite of all the gains, you still gotta respect the kids with the big badges, cause they put themselves out on the frontline.)

Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, have the same angry reaction when they hear about violence, and even more outrage when it’s motivated by hate. But among most gay people, there is also a cruel flash of awful self-doubt, the sense that somehow full acceptance by society is generations away. Currently, a symptom of the disconnect from full equal acceptance is spelled out, in sometimes very shrill language in daily newspapers and talk radio or tv programs around the country.

Of course it would be wrong to politicize the actions of five young men who beat someone to a pulp, peppering their viciousness with anti-gay language. A deplorable crime can’t be simply written off as a reaction to high profile issues like gay marriage or gays in the military etc. Nor can we neglect to consider the sad upbringing that leads to an individual capable of such madness. Instead, an attack like Kevin’s could be seen as a violent example of homophobia's most virulent tip. And unfortunately, it is homophobia that happens to be the most basic fundamental component that is now located at the very base of those who loudly express opposition to gay marriage. Although, a number of people would say the argument is over the definition of marriage, not the gays, the fact is, much of the opposition to gay marriage, the very language itself, can serve as a barometer of the acceptance of gay people in America. (well at least portions of it!)

When a Senator from Oklahoma can stand on the floor of the senate proudly proclaiming that none of his 30 children or grandchildren have ever been involved in homosexual affairs a clear example raises its ugly head.....Senator "Okie" puts on a show, contributes to the sharp divide over gay marriage for CSPAN listeners across the land, goes home a hero to many of his "right" leaning consituents. His name is Senator Inhofe and just last week, he stood in front of a rather large picture of his brood, and lambasted gay marriage, by claiming his family was "gay free". The Senator provided another solid piece of evidence that the state of gay acceptance in America is a long ways off, because if he can get away with that kind of talk...wrong, sorry....if he can win votes with that kinda talk, that's a bad sign.

Politicians serve as spokespersons for their constituents, which leads to an even more compelling fact of the matter... Violent attacks on gays motivated by hate, are rooted in a society that still accepts or at least tolerates homophobia. Enter exhibit B which is provided by a desperate President and his political party. Republican leaders are smart, and love going for the shrillest denominator (fear, manipulation, sin, flags, tittle tattle). That’s why, when times get tough in the polls, it might be politically strategic to use a hot off the press issue like gay marriage as a tool of engagement and jockeying for votes. The pool of proof is available for inspection in the passage of anti-gay marriage amendments in 19 states from coast to coast. And, as we’ve witnessed during this debate, a true test of any politician’s real resolve and commitment to fairness shows up in the political arena, forcing many of the nation’s more supposed “enlightened” liberal political leaders into an uncomfortable corner, when the motto "What would Jesus do" turns into "How would Jesus win" often resulting in courts taking the heat, changing the world for the better and making life a little more just. (just google Judge Frank Johnson sometime)

(All of that is a little grain of dust when compared to the legacy of anti gay sentiment of this ol world of ours...but truth be told, eventually political grandstanding trickles down through the complicated and messed up economic inequity and ignorance floating through streets,valleys into homes finally ending up minds and hearts or filters or perhaps even fanning flames of intollerance....or worse defining acceptable objects (people) for discrimintation, ridicule and abuse.)

Most perpetrators of violent hate crimes are not as politically engaged as a Senator. But several Senators and the President are politically wise enough to know that many Americans are not “fully” accepting of homosexuality, and sometimes, politicians choose to be real cheap and capitalize on the intolerance, fear and religion.

Considering the truth, that the hate of someone who is perceived as "different" begins at home and is then subtly cultivated by a culture’s long held disapproval or non-acceptance, we can make a safe assumption that politicized social issues and violence do function in a cooperative manner. Politics often reflects deeper lying truths, and politicians have been known to rubber stamp violence, usually through antagonistic divisive policy.

Gay marriage probably didn’t have a direct role in the Friday night beating of an innocent, productive and talented soul on a busy east village street. But, at the root of the passionate defense of heterosexual couples only marriage in America, there is a volume of evidence that speaks to the subtle homophobia that still quietly cooks its poisons in homes across America.

President Bush and George Wallace...welllll a number of Politicos

President Bush, perhaps a very distant political cousin to George Wallace
by Cody L

President Bush demonstrated his moral integrity again today, by using a hot button social topic to steer people's attention away from the real issues that affect their day to day lives.

The President, is engaging in ridiculous bully pulpit politics that many on the left poo poo as pandering. But, the Gay community could suffer tangible trickle down effects in part because his rhetoric.

President Bush, like Alabama's infamous civil rights era Governor George Wallace, pays lip service to discrimination (and violence) by attempting to write exclusionary policy into the constitution. In the early 1960's, Wallace's inflamatory rhetoric, gave a rubber stamp of approval to violence that rocked my home state to the core. The Governor, like other Southern leaders, could use race to steer attention away from a sorry education system, tax inequity, the threats of organized labor, poverty and the potential for other ladders of opportunity in a region left behind. For political gain, Wallace fanned the flames of hate that resulted in a disturbing legacy he tried to alter til the day he died. President Bush is not far from the fire himself.

No matter how many millions of Americans support a ban on same sex marriage, the President has the moral obligation to be a leader, a "uniter not a divider". But hey, when did politicians ever listen to what is morally correct over votes. That's why we have those activist judges.

One wonders if years from now, President Bush will regret his unnecessary political game man ship, especially when this sort of pandering gives a subliminal greenlight to other forms of discrimination of gay people. George Wallace certainly did. Fortunately for Wallace, he was forgiven by many of his African American consituents, and went on to win that state's highest office a few more times.

But, perhaps a more pressing question....will George Bush ever be invited to a gay wedding? And if he is, what will he bring? Regret?

Reasonably minded, tax paying, God loving and law abiding citizens of the United States will hopefully see through this current sad charade. There is hope that each and every American man woman and child gay straight or asexual or what not, will feast their eyes of political engagement on issues that truly matter, like a war in Iraq that has cost over two thousand American lives, countless Iraqi civillians and the wrath and distrust of billions of world citizens. (just to mention one of the more obvious important subjects worthy of getting voters to polls)

Maybe we in New York can safely tisk tisk those in the middle while silently marveling at the President and his incredible talent to deceive large portions of the American people. After all, it is this President's knack for being shrill and smug like a playground bully who came from money, that fuels his success at further deepening the cultural divide. But, there is no mistaking the wave of sad realization sweeping the thinkers of the world, as they witness another American leader using discrimination as a tool for winning votes. Yes, it appears that President Bush has signed the "Family Research Council's" new "marriage protection plan"...A plan that wreaks of misguided principals and cheap fear mongering.

So, as a reaction, here's a proposed plan of action...

Perhaps it is time, that those who subscribe to reason, and not reaction, will start demanding nothing less than the same sort of attention to an issue that might change the fate of millions ordinary daily lives. This President gave attention to and served as spokesmodel for the the shrill forces on the Right Wing..much in the same way Wallace did when he blocked the Univeristy of Alabama's college admissions office in Tuscaloosa back in 1963. Perhaps reason based types should demand that a politician they identify with, propose universal health insurance or something attention grabbing along those lines....but, unlike the convenient topic gay marriage, Universal Health care legislation would fundamentally change millions of lives and involve spending money and lots of it....and it may prove unpopular since it would make one of the special privileges offered to the "working" (I'm better than you) married... health insurance for your spouse.
PLEASE NOTE rule required by the new FRC MARRIAGE PLAN ...available for politickin signing if you wanna win!

(One of the suggested guidelines in the new FRC marriage protection plan is that newly married married couples buy homes in fortified bunker style neighborhoods located on former farmland in tiny small towns turned mega-developments. These developements are located far outside the major urban centers where gays tend to congregate and form communities. Gays are allowed buying rights as long as they refer to themselves as bachelors or bachellorettes (roomates are okay). These highly heterosexually secure areas are only accessible by two hour drives in traffic that is usually identifiable by large numbers of SUV's, Hummers, women applying makeup on the way to work-while driving, bouncing children, fast food restaurants, and unbearable suburban physical sameness that screams of...poor planning.

flag from codyco

FLAG AMENDMENT- Who's your leader, who's your leader, who's your leader

A proposed Constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Congress to prohibit desecration of the United States Flag has failed by one vote. The close, by the hair of our collective chinny chin chin's vote is good news, but also, a chilling reminder that in these times of hair brain political cabarets and get a vote by any means thinking, all moves are possible, as the land of liberty toys with some of its most fundamental ideas, including, one of the most sacred values of all, freedom of speech. And, as has been shown by numerous media hog public figures who hide behind thin masks of patriotism, symbols that are easily worn as a demonstration of dedication to a deeper principal or cause, can end up cheapening the true, complicated, hard fought and sacred values of what those symbols are meant to represent.

Since the horrible days right after 9/11, plenty of politicians have taken to wearing flag lapels. The last Republican convention looked like an Oscar ceremony in the 90's when celebrities wore red ribbons in the earlier days of AIDS awareness campaigns. After a while, the ribbons seemed to almost cheapen their important message, in much the same way, the flag lapels have become an even cheaper self righteous fixture on the "I'm more patriotic than you" circuit.

But patriotism is not cheap. And, it certainly is not for sale at Tiffany. Nor, is it defined by the world's largest flag flying proudly at your local interstate car dealership or town hall. Instead, patriotism is more complex, and indeed filled with controversial, passionate definitions that are debated constantly in our beautiful freedom based Democracy. The American system of Democracy, served by a few real leaders and the dedicated souls who would like to believe in what they say, is one of the things that earns the nation's loyalty and ultimately its patriotism. The freedom to say, and express one's self, debate our policy and inform our public of the truth, is what America holds closest to its heart. God forbid that policy makers begin legislating what specific freedoms of expression are protected, and which are not. We would all be at the mercy of reactionary whims that could evolve faster than a 1970's mood ring (or a spooky assed color coded terror alert). The country survived the flag burning craze of the Vietnam era and there's no doubt that it will survive any burn, poo, rip or bleach desecration trends now. What it won't survive are politicians who claim to be leaders but instead pick up easy hot rock non-relevant issues on the campaign trail and try to write them into the Constitution, a document that more leaders should wear in their hearts and minds rather than a suit pocket or pretty blouse. (btw...although the red ribbons heightened awareness, the real test came when it was time to cough up a dollar to the cause)

Even if the Flag Amendment had passed, we would still have to watch, as citizens in other nations burn our flag, motivated by a real disdain for what we represent, not our current policies. Besides, in this war on terror, it's pretty easy to spot a smoke plume coming from a burning flag, I mean, if that's really what the war on terror is all about, who better to wiretap? (know your enemies warned Nixon)

It seems to me that a true example of patriotism is a politician who can stand and say, although it burns my buns, makes me sick, bites my soul, rips at my heart to see someone disrespect old Glory's stars and stripes....(GOT IT!)....I will still defend the right of any American to desecrate the flag because, that is what makes us seperate from the rest of the world. Unlike China, where...welllll, you get the picture.

Rhetoric that takes a difficult and non-reactionary path earns the respect of millions. It's that stance for freedom, no matter how distasteful, that takes pure ol wise political guts. Of course, that politician is then subject to the political wrath of cheap opponents and other less than savory groups who choose to steer voter's attention(s) away from real issues that truly affect a democracy, such as making sure that the principals the flag stands for, the comittment to liberty and justice for all are upheld. Of course, one can't wear either of those on a lapel or blouse, nor can it be sewn and flown in towns across America. The laws that protect the principals of Liberty and Justice flow down from the decisionmakers we call leaders.

A few politicians, like Medal of Honor winner Senator Daniel Inouye, a veteran of World War Two, took a stance against the ammendment idea.

The Senator from Hawaii displayed one of those increasingly rare moments when a politician ceases to be a "politician" and becomes a real "leader."