NYC shutterbugs, lightstalkers, photojournalists, filmmakers...

In case you haven't already heard the news, we - photographers, filmakers, local residents, and tourists - are on the verge of facing serious restrictions by New York City Mayor's Office. The City of New York plans to enact legislation THIS FRIDAY that will require a group of two or more people who want to use a moving or still camera in a public location for more than half an hour (including setup and breakdown time) to get a permit and proof of a one million dollar liability insurance policy. There would also be a requirement for groups of five or more who use a tripod for more than ten minutes to provide the same.

This legislation is a significant threat to the livelihoods of many, many artists (myself included) and a violation of our Constitutional First Amendment right to photograph in public places.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION by Thursday night to prevent this disaster from happening:


Every signature counts and is greatly appreciated. You don't have to be a New York resident to sign it. Please pass this on.

To learn more about the planned law, click to NY Times article on proposed rules



What'cha gonna do with all that ass?

Oh. I can't help but post stupid shit. I try to come up with intelligent commentary on important issues I'm obsessed with, but then I see something like this:

More internet garbage! More! More! Gimmeeeee!


I'm a Gemini, and my favorite food is pizza.

Yes. Yes. I know. Too little, too late. I admit, I have been neglectful of my blogging duties. Unfathomably so, considering my freelance work "schedule". What was that? Yes. I am still in my bathrobe. Now why don't you shove it. Nice khakis, by the way.

Here is a link to Michael Cera's new project/blog/whathaveyou. Pure Gold Dynamite Watch some of the videos and laugh your ass off. I believe I am not alone in declaring him a genius. And sooooo cute. But I guess there is a formula to winning my heart, at this point. Dry humor + musician + Canadian = giddy schoolgirl crush. Wait... Canada Dry Humor? Anyone? Anyone?

Whatever. I never claimed to be the funny one.


It's a both/and world

I'm still not quite sure what that means, but you can ask the ladies who are directing Bi The Way, the forthcoming documentary on (bi)sexuality in America.
They are also employing me (among other tasks, I helped design and build this site.) So - yes - this is partially a shameless plug for yet another project of mine. But it is also the chance to rant, pontificate and comment away on the topic of sexuality. I know how you bar-stool philosophers love to do that. So unearth some of those stories from the sexperimental days of yore and take the survey! Come on! I didn't quit my day job for nothing. Support starving filmmakers...

A Message from the Directors of BI THE WAY

Some experts claim that humans are by nature attracted to both sexes and that those who acknowledge it, repress less the natural range of desire.

If "bisexuality" is everywhere, why is it so invisible? Is it because the word itself is too narrowly defined? We all know that the variety of sexual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings far exceeds the words we have to describe them.

We are trying to prove to the world and to a potential producer that "bisexuality" is much more pervasive than any scientific study or census suggests. If 15,000 of you take our survey, and contribute $2 to the movie, a producer will match the donations and we can finish the film!

After you take our survey, check out the map to see how the rest of America has responded.

Where are you? Please speak up!

BI THE WAY MOVIE - movie site

BOTH/AND WORLD - discussion forum and survey (I'm the webmaster, so let me know of any glitches)

BI THE WAY BLOG - follows the filmmakers across the country

Bi The Way on MySpace - I hate this damn site and anything that Rupert Murdoch touches. But hey... you can't fight city hall.


I do - kind of?

"Is marriage a relic of a patriarchal past that should be retired shamefully to the dresser like a used garter belt? Or is it an open institution that can be played with, screwed around with and reassembled at will?"
I'm sure a number of you are wondering just what happened to that difficult, idealistic grrrl who despised patriarchy in all its forms and wanted nothing to do with the institution of marriage. I assure you, she is not dead! But she loves this guy and shouldn't feel bad about it, damn it!

Still, the stress and excitement and hullabaloo over the wedding definitely grates on me sometimes. Being constantly surrounded by progressive thinkers and completely independent, happy women can cause an occassional freak-out. I will admit, when in the office, I keep those bridal magazines buried at the bottom of my bag. And I never buy one without backing it up with
Harper's or Bust or Off Our Backs. In certain circles, I feel real guilt for having a ring on my finger.

I wanted to share an
essay by Amy Benfer that mildly soothes my feminist fears. It is not an argument for or against feminists tying the knot. It does touch on the internal (and external) struggles facing some womyn who make this decision.

Anyway, this nerd liked it. Give me some feedback, ladies!

FYI: A pretty good site for other sell-outs (kidding!) is Indiebride. The bitching on their bulletin board makes me happy.


"Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Missed me? I haven't posted in a while, I know. Things have been a bit crazy. This past Friday was my last day at Democracy Now! after 3 long years. I am free! Great show, but that office is like an abusive boyfriend. It was just time for me to leave. Farewell to my masochistic co-workers!

Now that I have my life back, I am trying desperately to catch up. I JUST watched the Colbert address to the White House Correspondents Dinner. Truly inspirational. If you have not seen it yet, here it is. WATCH IT NOW! This one will go down in the history books. If you can't watch it, read the transcript. He brilliantly slams them all...

George Bush:
"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will."

the pussies in the press:
"Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!"
...Fox News, Antonin Scalia, John McCain (that man is a maverick), even Laura Bush...and he never lets up. It was marvelous. Bush, sitting mere steps from the podium, looks like he is going to explode, or is missing the joke entirely. The audience is visibly freaked out. I fear he may have just eclipsed our beloved John Stewart.

I am in love. Sigh.


Seems Like Old Times

The Mimes & Mummers 150th Anniversary and reunion bonanza was this past weekend. It was more fun than I expected! (Thanks Dennis!) It was wonderful to see everybody again - same old wiseass remarks, same uncouth heckling from the peanut gallery during performances and speeches. Same old Collins Theater, same lightboard, same curtains. Not the same Mike's Pizza though, nor the same floor at the Tinker.

Some new M&Ms called me a legend. Finally, I am somebody!! We chilled on Alex but never made it up to OZ, defaced some flats with crude drawings of genitalia, and Lizzie and Nate gave us a spirited interpretive dance to AC/DC at the bar. Sadly, I was beaten badly at beer pong by some trash-talking sophomore boys. But hit on by some other undergrads. So, I've still got it! ...sort of.

Here are some photos from the evening.


I'm scared.

Now that we have open registries at a few fancy-pants stores, I have received a number of disturbing emails, with subjects like: GET THE EASTER BUNNY CAKE PAN AT WILLIAMS-SONOMA. These are the things that scare me most. Animal shaped cake pans, Martha Stewart and Donald Rumsfeld.

Now, a Rumsfeld-shaped cake pan... that's a different story.


Bush Lies. People Die. Who pays?

"Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes."
—Alexander Haig, U.S. Secretary of State, June 12, 1982

This was written by a friend and poet, Tamiko Beyer....

Dear friends,

As we approach the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I'm preparing to attend the rally being planned in New York City to protest this brutal war and current occupation. At the same time, tax day approaches and I'm preparing to protest the incredible amount of money being spent to fund war and occupation (close to $7 billion a month for military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan). (1)

As a U.S. citizen, I'm outraged by the acts of aggression, war, and torture that are being carried out in my name—from the war in Iraq, to the atrocities documented at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the continued bombings and killings of civilians in Afghanistan. I'm also deeply concerned by the persistent attack on civil liberties here in the U.S. being carried out in this so-called "war on terror." And I'm horrified that my tax dollars are helping to fund all of these acts.

This year, approximately 50% of federal taxes will be used to support current and past military expenses. (2) In protest, I am refusing to pay 50% of the of the money I owe the IRS. I will donate that half to the People's Life Fund, which makes grants to community organizations working for peace and justice. This act of noncooperation, as much as my marching and my chanting, is my resounding declaration of protest against a war that I am profoundly opposed to, and is an act that the government cannot ignore.

A statement of support for those who refused to pay for the war against Iraq and continued military aggression by the U.S. government, signed by over 900 individuals including Joan Baez, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, includes this thought:
"It is clear that the U.S. government's ability to threaten, coerce, and, if deemed necessary, make war on other nations is a direct result, not only of our economic might, but also the unprecedented size of our military arsenal, which is now far larger than that of all our allies and 'enemies' combined. It is equally clear that the maintenance of this arsenal depends upon the willingness of the American people — through their federal tax payments — to finance it." (3)

I will no longer willingly participate in financing this arsenal. I share this letter with you in hopes that you too will consider actions that you can take to voice your opposition to acts of war carried out by the U.S. government. I've included links below that provide more information about war tax resistance. And, as I am always a poet before I am anything else, I'm including a poem I wrote at the beginning of the Iraq war, and before I became a war tax resister.

With love, ferocity, and poetry,


1. "U.S. Annual War Spending Grows," David Rogers, March 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal Online
2. Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes, War Resister's League
3. "An Appeal to Conscience," War Resister's League

Some resources for war tax resistance:
* National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
* Northern California War Tax Resistance/People's Life Fund
* War Resisters League

The Hand
April, 2003

This is a protest poem
but I'm not sure to whom I should register my complaint.
I would like to protest the dismembered hand
draped across a tree branch close to a market
in an old neighborhood of Baghdad
bombed during its evening peak:
packed with women vying for the few, meager vegetables
to cook for the next day's wartime meals.
Unsightly. Gruesome. Horrific.
How dare it enter my consciousness?

Perhaps I should complain to the woman whose hand
it once was. But it's of no use—she's dead.

Then I must complain to the British reporter who documented
the severed hand and other broken bodies in the marketplace.
But he only wrote what he witnessed.
We should expect no less of journalists.

Perhaps, then, I will protest to the Iraqi people for fighting to defend
their land and country. If they had welcomed our troops with cheers
and a laying down of guns, the hand would not have been liberated
from its slender wrist. But who would not fight for her home?
I would.

Therefore, I should probably register my complaint to evil
Saddam Hussein who refused to disarm and so forced us to invade.
But—no weapons of mass destruction have been found laying
deadly and waiting in the desert.

Then, I must complain to the United Nations, that venerable
institution, for allowing this preemptive and illegal act of war.
But I forget; they worked to prevent it at every turn.

So it is to George W. Bush then, to whom I must complain
about the dismembered hand whose image will not let me be.
He ordered the bombs to fall, the soldiers to kill.
But he is the president of this country, bound
to do the will of the people
(or so the story goes).

It must be then that we wanted this war.

It must be that we coveted, desperately
our sporty Durangos, our perfect, climate-controlled
split level houses and downtown condos. Our American
and god-given right to take to the open highway
and watch the farms and telephone poles go by—taking what we want
along the way, from California to Florida, D.C. to New York
taking what we want, wherever it may be.

Yes, it is to myself that I must complain.
I paid my taxes dutifully. Paid for a few inches
of the bomb that exploded where a woman stood
picking out a single lemon, weighing it in her hand,
which was then was sliced off her arm by flying shrapnel
that sailed through the air
the smoke, the screams
to land gently
like a bird nesting
in the crook
of an ancient olive tree.

Tamiko Beyer
(Originally published in
Paradise 29 artel, 2005)


Philly doesn't suck.

Just a public service announcement to all those folks too lazy or afraid to visit Ryan - you missed some great sausage! Yeow!


Obama wins a Grammy

Did you know that Barack Obama won a grammy last night for Best Spoken Word Album? This guy is just too likeable. Clinton/Obama 2008?? Or maybe Jamie Fox should be on the ticket... since he seems to run the world anyway.

here's a blurb about the nomination and here are the winners (scroll way down for Best Spoken Word Album)


Sandra Day - say you'll stay!!!!

Samuel Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court earlier this week, with a vote of 58 to 42, mostly along party lines. He has consistently sided with big government and big business, and has said that he does not believe a woman has a right to an abortion.

In light of this news, my financial consultant, Kevin Wandy, has advised that when it comes to wire coat hanger stock, now is the time to invest. Hotel Supplies-Online and Wireworld are some companies that produce what is soon to be a hot comodity in back alleys and high school bathrooms. BUY BUY BUY!

Too much? I thought an offensive confirmation deserves an offensive posting. This man is a nightmare.




Results-oriented, team player...unstoppable

I'm so glad I found this...


another great moment from the 700 Club

"You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine."
- Pat Robertson
This man is endlessly entertaining.

Lateley, every time Robertson opens his mouth, I have to wonder if he is being paid by the Democrats. He's like the GOP's senile, racist, homophobic grandpa... they love him, but are more and more embarassed to take him out in public without his meds.

He is now suggesting that Ariel Sharon's stroke was punishment from God, for ordering the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza. A White House spokesman described the broadcaster's remarks as "wholly inappropriate and offensive".

I have a feeling it was Sharon's propensity for "meat in every way" rather than a vengeful god.

And some Palestinians have been heard complaining that a war criminal shouldn't get such an easy out. Right. That's how I want to go...a nice, easy brain hemmorage.
So, did Jesus strike him down or was it Fred the Donut Guy?

Religious fanatics are great.

Other nuggets of wisdom from Pat Robertson:

  • He has described feminism as a "socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
  • Talking about Venezuela's populist President Hugo Chavez: "He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he’s going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent. You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop, but this man is a terrific danger, and the United States -- this is in our sphere of influence. We can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine. We have other doctrines that we have announced, and without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
  • After Dover, PA voted out all 7 school board members that supported teaching "intelligent design" in the science classroom, Pat said this:"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city... And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."


Who's the Boss

How I love this man...
... We forget that every adult was brought up on fairy tales so it's natural to go on and, politically for example, want to believe that your President is a nice, honest man. The inability to turn to an adult perspective once you get to the age where you have some political weight is a great tragedy, and this is a period of history when it seems the most obvious type of disguise is on display to the entire world and yet those are the people who are still in power.
from an interview with Bruce Springsteen
Mojo magazine, January 2006 issue


Merry War on Christmas!

Happy Festivus, my friends. Who wants to go caroling with me tonight? I have Bill O'Reiley's address.

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh!

We don't need your Santa Claus
Cause we've got Uncle Ho
No three wise bourgeois gentlemen
Or sleigh bells in the snow
Santa may wear red, but don't believe what you see
Cause Uncle Ho distributes presents equally

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
He comes down from the North
Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
all the presents he brings forth
Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
He's a jolly man they say
Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
Smash the state on Christmas day

That fat man he don't understand
How his elves work
His laissez faire philosophies
Leave his workers short
Uncle Ho tunnels, when he brings your toys
And he lives with his workers in Hanoi oi! oi!


Harold Pinter is the shit.

If you haven't heard Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture yet, take the time to read it.... seriously. I know it is long, but well worth it. I promise. Skip down to the thrashing he gave our fearless leaders if the literary portion doesn't tickle your fancy. Then you can go back to your porn or page six.

Or watch the video

Here is the text. Enjoy.

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.




it's clearly a fire hazard

hello friends and foes

i was adamantly opposed to starting my own blog. i normally lack the confidence to put my mediocre words on the internet(s). but the monkeys at the new york post have a website. so, why not?

welcome to the heaven and hell cotillion. mingle. have some punch. i'll do my best to entertain.