Who needs the UN?

I just got this belated response to my op-ed on Spain from March 16. I'm glad for the "useful analysis" comment, but not sure I understand the point about the UN. There are of course many problems with the UN, where I know several people who are doing the best they can to keep our world livable. The greatest problems stem from the US Government's underfunding and deliberate sabotaging of it, while simultaneously regarding other world agreements (Kyoto, the World Court) as irrelevant. But if the UN dissolved, or if other countries simply stopped bothering with it, wouldn't we likely see a rebirth of Bandung and an organization of the nonaligned nations to stand against the US? It looks like the US needs the UN just to forestall that happening, so it will probably continue to limp along.
Thank you for your useful analysis. Clearly the UN is useless. However, our State Department should be actively cultivating our allies many of whom have been very helpful in this effort in Iraq. M. Jones


I've been following the turmoil in Venezuela as closely as I could from the distance of New York, between other distractions like assignments and my own government's sowing of turmoil in Iraq and other places. I can't do much about Iraq, but I do have some experience that might be useful in Venezuela. Finally this week I decided to do something about it, to try to clarify the issues: I've written a grant proposal to let me go back to Caracas and talk to people in the barrios, as Venezuelans call those dense, poor warrens of improvised housing clinging to the slopes around the city, where the mass of Hugo Chávez's fervent supporters struggle for life. (I lived and worked in two of these communities years ago, in my first job after college, so I'll feel like Brer Rabbit back in the briar patch.) And I also plan to talk to the professional and business people and union leaders who oppose him. Each side accuses the other of being "antidemocratic." Yet each side has approved an attempted military coup! The anti-Chávez people just in April 2002 -- shortly undone by the rapid and mostly spontaneous massing of Chávez's supporters from the barrios and the loyalty of most of the armed forces. And ten years earlier, Chávez himself led a nearly-successful coup that his followers now celebrate. Just what kind of democracy are they talking about then?

I just came across this old essay of mine, previously unpublished, on Chávez's 1992 coup and what it meant. You may find it useful if you too are puzzled by events there. Hugo Chávez's Failed Coup of 1992.


Writers' rights panel May 4 - don't miss it!
Here's that information again, on the National Writers Union, New York Chapter website.


They really don't want us to know how much they knew
Check out this story from the Independent: Lawyers try to gag FBI worker over 9/11 by Andrew Buncombe in Washington.
CONTACT: Geoffrey Fox gf@geoffreyfox.com
Fourth Estate or Fifth Column?
Panel on Rights & Responsibilities of Independent Writers in a Time of Terror

“The events of 9/11 and the Bush Administration's 'war on terror' have had a chilling effect on writers,” says Mel Friedman, writer and activist in the National Writers Union. Concerned about the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act and other measures of the Bush administration to restrict the free flow of ideas and information, Friedman has joined with other members of the NWU’s New York chapter to organize a panel on "Fourth Estate or Fifth Column?: Rights & Responsibilities of Independent Writers in a Time of Terror," to be held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on May 4.

“The adversarial relationship between government and its critics is not unique to this administration," says Friedman. “But the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy, its efforts to gut the Freedom of Information Act, and its return to a policy that treats dissent as disloyalty bode ill for a republic founded on human rights and the free flow of ideas and information."

The panel discussion is co-sponsored by the National Writers Union and the City University of New York Graduate Center's Continuing Education and Public Programs.

“Every journalist, every author, and every citizen needs to understand the challenges facing the press today,” says Friedman. “The May 4 panel is an opportunity to increase our understanding so that writers can respond effectively to safeguard the free flow of information and ideas that is the guarantor of our democracy.”

The event will be held on May 4, 2004, at The City University of New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. Suggested donation $10; $5 for students. To register (course #4235) or for more information, call: (212) 817-8215, or visit Continuing Education website.


GERARD COLBY, Author, Journalist and President, National Writers Union

LUCY DALGLISH, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Washington, DC

LARRY SIEMS, Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
PEN American Center, New York.
Larry Siems served for five years as Director of the Freedom to Write Program at PEN USA West in Los Angeles, where he spearheaded the establishment of PEN's Latin American Network.

UDI OFER, Director, New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York
Price of misguided patriotism: forbidden images of death
My friend Diana Wright writes: After 4 days of constant trying, I have finally been able to get to the web site with the photos we are not supposed to see. Some of them are extraordinarily moving. When you start looking at individual series, taken in dawn, bright light, dark, then you see a great deal more that we have not been told. These caskets are treated with amazing care at each point of transfer. If the war is being carried out in our name, with our money, at least the military are showing the tenderness we share toward the lost.


Dover AFB (312 of 361)

Dover AFB (82 of 361)

Dover AFB (125 of 361)

Dover AFB (166 of 361)

The Memory Hole home


We are a mass movement!
What a thrill to be in that crowd in Washington yesterday! Were you there? Sorry I didn't see you, but there were just so many people, it's no wonder we didn't run into one another. From this excellent article on the march by Cameron W. Barr and Elizabeth Williamson in today's Washington Post, it appears that we really were over a million people demanding respect for women's rights, including abortion rights mainly but more than that. "Don't mess with Texas women," proclaimed the T-shirts of a crowd of at least 40 men and women marching behind two big Texas state flags. You wouldn't want to mess with any of them. A big, big crowd came from Ohio, Oregonians were also there in force, and -- well, those are just a few of those I could identify. Pagans, Catholics, evangelicals, even some Republicans were in our crowd. And we're going to vote and get our friends to vote. But that's not all: such massive mobilization proves that the desire for democracy is not dead in the U.S. of A., and whoever wins is going to have to pay more attention to the popular will.