Wednesday, November 09, 2005


UP FRONT News May 28, 2005
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


Most phenomena that are heavily hyped, from the sometimes related standpoints of talent and value, accomplish primarily one goal, which is to become filthy rich. That often represents a conflict, usually buried in cash, yielding results like ball players making $26 million a year, movie stars making $40 million a film and parading around as role models. Alex Rodriguez and Tom Cruise come immediately to mind. So, by the way, do, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (cash bull and cash cow, respectively). It always conjures up these grotesque images of mega-billionaires, whose egotistical needs make everything less affordable for everyone else, going through America’s ghettoes distributing turkey on Thanksgiving. Major league pro athletes, who as a group are among the world’s principal agents of greed, are big on that kind of stuff. And now that A-Rod has revealed to all of us that he sees a shrink or an equivalent, he might considering discussing with the good therapist, not the child within, but the greed within.

There are, however, a few phenomena that, whether monetarily values in the billions or in pennies, justify their hype. Two of them are the Rolling Stones and the Staten Island Ferry. Both are superb tourist and domestic attractions. Anther one could be Reverend Billy.

I’ve met Reverend Billy and seen him perform three times, and, by attending an all-out pro-bicycle-Critical-Mass Rally (in Union Square) and Concert (in St. Mark’s Church in the East Village), I got to experience a preacher-performer, who, if he means what he says, will not be able to walk on water – but he is likely to be able to cross an unfrozen Hudson River on a bike.

Reverend Billy has a rock and roll minister’s swagger reminiscent of both Elvis Presley and, among clergy, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry (House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn) and, to be sure, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. His sermon, interspersed, with “Bike-e-lujah!” and “Amen!”, addressing his full-house St. Mark’s audience as “children”, is backed by possibly the most “diverse” choir ever. (John Rocker – the at-the-time Atlanta Brave ballplayer who somehow wound up on a New Yorker-filled “7” train in Queens and immediately decompensated ethnically-would be horrified.)

But its Reverend Billy’s subject matter that may well explain why he openly concludes that it is necessary in these times to be non-violent and “radical.” Much of his sermon focused on the political and spiritual importance of using bicycles rather than cars, particularly in New York, He referred to the bicycle, with a hint of a smile, as a “sacred object”; baptized an infant named “Liberty”, who is not yet ready to ride her brand new tricycle); and openly supported the “Critical Mass” bike events that are beginning to draw, from Mayor Bloomberg’s anxious perspective, critical masses. Reverend Billy, however, saved his strongest New Testament-like words for the corporate magnates, who, through politics and deals, now use a most willing Religious Right to cause war, hunger, pollution, and oppression in general.

Rev. Billy, who gave a mini-sermon before his church show at a bike activists rally in Union Square, quite apparently believes in going into the “church” reportedly Jesus-style and, at least figuratively, knocking things over, in his war on the acquisitiveness at its most obnoxious perhaps in malls and franchise stores. Through his “Stop Shopping” ministry he has engaged in possible civil disobedience at Starbuck’s, the company that, aside from keeping people in fact sleepless in its native city of Seattle, provided the fuel for the near death of the rationally priced cup of coffee. I hope Reverend Billy uses his somewhat direct personalized approach, such as is the case vis a vis Starbuck’s, with, for example, some of the folks who are both “iconic” and harmful to us in ways similar to Starbuck’s, the Malls, and human-rights unconscious politicians who call themselves “men of The word “charisma” is, of course, a dangerous one. Jesus had it. So did Hitler. Charisma, however, on the side of something positive is a good thing to have on one’s side. The Rolling Stones and Rev. Billy, (who, despite a heartland America accent, sounds like a New Yorker) have it, too.

The pro-concert Rally fused the concerns of the many people who feel strongly about the right of free speech which, like the right to bike, is under an assault by a nervous mayor who, with respect to Central Park – the world’s play-ground – is acting like a prude. I agree approximately 100% with Public Advocate Candidate Norman Siegel, who said, paraphrased, commenting on giving New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra a grossly disproportionately large amount of the very inadequate number of evenings allotted, he’s got no problem with Beethoven. But the park is for everyone. Not just classical music lovers. (Siegel was not at all shy about his partiality toward doo-wop.) Mayor Bloomberg seems concerned about gatherings of large groups of people not happy with, among other things, politics and prices, (which, in this town, are associated with the de facto right wing, which includes George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and, despite their tolerance for sexual preferences, Michael Bloomberg and George Pataki; and of course U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. (All her words, by the way, about being a target of a “right wing” conspiracy – rhetoric that is just sucked up with very expensive dinners by her fat car and dog billionaire friends in Hollywood – are garbage. Hillary Clinton, as has been portrayed in UP FRONT News, and expressed in various forms by folks everywhere, is a right-wing conspiracy. It’s really difficult for anyone to portray oneself as a progressive while supporting Bush’s War in Iraq, Bush’s (Patriot Act) War on America, politically consorting with Trump and his developer friends while perhaps fatally wounding the perhaps legislatively moribund Bringing America Home Act, the passage of which would help millions of people in need of truly affordable housing.

There were a number of speakers from various groups. Only one “group”, however, managed to get its guy on the speakers list under profoundly false circumstances. The so-called “No Police State Coalition “, was begun some years ago by a few guys, including Manhattan’s Dennis Griggs and Joe Carranza of Queens, as a First-Amendment protecting-network, holding speakouts in Union Square; often focusing on the many unanswered questions about 9/11. Over a period of time, partially witnessed by me, the group was literally hijacked by, in particular, three “left” rapping neo-fascists who, with threats and acts of violence, kept the mike from those (e.g. me) they didn’t like. Geoffrey Blank (a former like guard, and schoolteacher) from Rockaway, Queens and his younger brother Jason, who in fact often acts like the classic little brother) and Eric Rassi, who claims to be a squatter in the east Village, could only grin evasively when I publically compared their nazi-like tactics to those of Lyndon LaRouche and his political bimbo Lenora Fulani. Their possible “aiding and abetting” a vicious assault upon me by an employee of their favorite restaurant for meetings is, in light of the previous threats against criminal harassments against me, is a matter for police investigation. And, since the at least ideological link to nazi LaRouche seems to be a matter of record, in light of LaRouche’s status as a convicted federal felon (credit card fraud, did seven years in federal prisons; this was no Dan Berrigan), maybe the feds will show some interest. (There’s more on LaRouche and an apparent White House link coming up in this newspaper.) The No Police State Coalition has lost many of its original members, either by banishment by – alienation from – Blank and Rassi. One of the hangers-on who, although fully aware of the dictatorial goings-on, cannot utter a word of protest, largely because he is so busy sounding militant, that human rights in his own group escapes his concern – is Ben Maurer. On the one occasion, I requested an opinion from him; I received a response that was part incoherent and part insult. The “No Police State Coalition” (which should, in all honesty, drop the “no” from its name), is a shell-organization, composed of a neo-fascist leadership, which reportedly extorts dues from a few lemmings who stick around, Joel Myers represents the Stalinist wing of NPSC) to be ridiculed by on-lookers at Union Square during their Monday, Thursday, and Saturday speakouts. Comedian-wannabe (the Buddy Hackett of the fascist movement?) Maurer and the laughably misnamed No Police State Coalition at a Free Speech Rally is sort of like having Lenora Fulani at the Bar Mitzvah.

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