I heard her perform during the Howl! festival in a program organized by Chris Rael of Church of Betty, also known as Mr. Penny Arcade. She is a warm performer, with rather orchestral writing for such a small ensemble. I liked the way she told the crowd which musician was most featured in each song they performed.
September 2003 Archives
The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity and has asked the White House to preserve all documents that might relevant to the probe, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday.
I'm sure we can rest assured that Mr. Ashcroft will pursue this with the same zeal as he is using The PATRIOT Act.
The best coverage of this story is coming from Joshua Marshall. No, he's not in my blog links. After he got all weird and "oh my God what if Iraq does have WMD we better go to war!" I took him off.
It is the most beautiful mix of rough edges, sexiness, and elegance.
People enjoy their morning coffee in a candle lit bar, during a nationwide blackout, in Naples, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2003. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)
This story, from the September 19 newsletter of the German Embassy, made me cry when I read it.
Navy officials were last week astounded and moved by a Germany frigate's stirring tribute to their colleagues on the USS Doyle to mark the two-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Military vessels routinely render honors to military ships of other countries when they pass at sea by dipping their flag, as a sign of respect. But the German frigate Niedersachsen went above and beyond this normal gesture of respect when it asked to come alongside the USS Doyle on September 11, 2003, the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US.
On this day, as the two ships approached and passed, the entire crew of the German vessel stood top-side in dress-blues, holding their hats over their hearts. And as the ultimate gesture of respect, the Niedersachsen was flying the stars and stripes from its main mast. A US Naval Officer, in an email that also reached the German Embassy in Washington, told of how touched the US crew were by the "classy and emotional" presentation by their German counterparts.
In an interview on National Public Radio's All Things Considered on September 14, Commander Bernd Kuhbier of the FGS Niedersachsen explained this extraordinary act. "When you are on a warship, you don't fly a foreign flag on the top mast," Commander Kuhbier told host Steve Inskeep. "But we though the occasion was suitable to do that, so that's what we did. We were proud to do so."
The unexpected gesture touched the US sailors, Vice Admiral Timothy LaFleur described in an unclassified email: "From their main mast they flew our flag and they held their covers over their hearts. Needless to say, the whole crew was choked up and a few tears formed in our eyes. Both ships stayed next to each other in silence for about 5 minutes. These are the days that remind me why I joined the Navy."
The FGS Niedersachsen and the USS Doyle are both part of NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT), a permanent peacetime multinational naval squadron composed of destroyers, cruisers and frigates from the navies of various NATO nations.
People For the American Way are having a fund-raising auction.
There are some cool items, including:
- Kathleen Turner, sultry-voiced star of stage, screen, radio and television, will record a personalized message for your telephone answering machine.
- You and a friend will sit down for lunch and conversation with two of Hollywood's finest raconteurs, Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss and actor, director and producer Bob Balaban (A Mighty Wind, Gosford Park, Deconstructing Harry). You will dine at their favorite restaurant at a mutually convenient date and time.
- A rare piece by artist Jenny Holzer consisting of two LED Light Reader Boxes, one depicting language used by the political right, the other language used by the political left. Minimum Bid: $1000
Someone needs to buy me the Jenny Holzer!
American Family Association: Appealing to Family Values with ListManager Why did famous web marketing guru Seth Godin choose to profile the email strategy of a conservative Christian activist group like the American Family Association? And how can the budget-conscious nonprofit justify investing in a commercial email marketing program like ListManager?
Budget-conscious? They have a budget of more than $11 million and 200 radio stations. Here is a good write-up from People For the American Way on this "family" association. Their California director wrote the infamous "Pink Swastika", which tells us "homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities."
James has posted an account of Wolfowitz's appearance at The New School today as part of The New Yorker's "cultural" festival.
Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Left Brain
On Friday we stopped by ATM Gallery on Avenue B for the opening of Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir. There was a bit more buzz than one usually sees at an East Village opening these days -- Björk was there, supporting her fellow Icelander. She hung out in the gallery and on Avenue B for the entire time I was there, so she was probably there for most of the opening. I love NY! She can hang out like that without being accosted, which would be more likely to happen further uptown, or further west in Manhattan.
The highlights of the evening were to be found at Brooklyn Fire Proof and Open Ground. The former is morphing into a gallery space in addition to being artists studios. They showed some great work, and had a good band with videos and people dancing in costumes. They're a little "at the edge" geographically, but that's changing -- witness the location of The Morning News party. I can't find anything about her via Google, but there were some nice works on paper by Stine Hedegaard Andersen, and I got a chance to meet Steven Baines, whose work I had seen recently at White Columns.
One of the things from the show is available for download from the artist, Rebecca Ross's web site. It's called "The Okay News" and is described thusly:
The Okay News memory resident Mac OSX application
A re-formed newspaper that runs in the background of everyday computer use. Every twenty minutes OkayNews delivers a headline from that day's New York Times to an operating system warning box with the single button "Okay", which must be pressed to continue using the computer.
I think the "Third Friday" event was a big success. There were a lot of people at every gallery I visited, including neighborhood people that asked questions as if they didn't normally go to galleries. As we walked around, we encountered quite a few people who were asking for directions, or asked where to get a copy of the gallery map.
I just finished moving James's weblog from b2 to Movable Type. Yea!
If you have any problems with his site, let me (or him, but I'm the one who is going to fix it) know.
Some recent excellent posts from him:
After the adventures James and I experienced when a National Review columnist decided we weren't sympathetic enough about dead Catholics, it is amusing to read the Antic Muse's Oh, Get a Room...
The other highlight of our tour on Monday of Williamsburg galleries with the "charming French boys" was Chris Doyle's very strong show of watercolors at Jessica Murray Projects -- huge works based on video stills of his life with his partner and daughter.
Chris Doyle, Failing to Levitate in the Studio, 2003
watercolor on paper, 46"x73"
Tonight is a good night to head out to Williamsburg. All of the Williamsburg Gallery Association galleries will be open until 9, and many of them will have music, as part of their new "Third Friday" events. Do not miss the opening of Plus Ultra's new, larger space, and make sure you go around the corner to check out Dam, Stuhltrager at 38 Marcy Ave. The Plus Ultra show, titled "arts and letters," features drawings and paintings by Jonathan Ames, Dave Eggers, Susan Minot, and Will Self.
See, I did do something for Fashion Week. I attended a reception at the Swedish Consulate on Park Avenue for two young designer/artists, Aïa Jüdes and Johanna Hofring. The exhibit, called In the Land of the Midnight Sun, featured clothing by both, with inspirations from Sami and other traditional costumes, plus photography of Sami people by Aïa. I met her at the opening and talked about the work a bit. She made some pretty beautiful ensembles, and where else would one want to actually talk to the models but at an event like this one?
I can't quite explain why this bothers me so much, but the latest column by the idiot known as Thomas L. Friedman really bothers me. I am so depressed to live in a country where the NY Times can print a columnist who writes such an intellectually dishonest and meretricious column.
It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.
If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.
But then France has never been interested in promoting democracy in the modern Arab world, which is why its pose as the new protector of Iraqi representative government after being so content with Saddam's one-man rule is so patently cynical.
Ah, yes. America has been so anti-Saddam.
In the mid-1980s the Reagan administration sent current U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to meet with Saddam Hussein to improve relations between the U.S. and Iraq.
It is laughable for the country that overthrew a democratic government in Iran in 1953, which re-installed a male-only oligarchy in Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf War, and which props up the Saudi royal family, to protest much about democracy in the Middle East.
So Americans expect France to not act in its own interest, or to not tell us when we're being stupid? They're evil for not making it easy enough for us to give Saddam Hussein ultimatums? Ultimatums for what? Admitting to weapons that apparently don't exist?
James and I spent a lot of the last week hanging out with a couple of young artist/musicians from France. They were very upset when they saw t-shirts for sale in Times Square that said, "Iraq First, Then France." This country is really scaring me. Is it going to be "us" against the world?
According to a release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of employees receiving health care from employers has plummeted in the last decade, from 63 percent coverage a decade ago down to just 45 percent today. [via Nathan Newman]
A [Canadian] married gay couple say they were refused entry into the U.S. because an American customs officer wouldn't accept their clearance forms as a family.
Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell said they ended their trip to Georgia because the customs official at Toronto's Pearson airport insisted they fill out separate forms as single people.
Bourassa said he complained to a customs supervisor and was told the couple wouldn't be allowed to enter the U.S. as a family because the country doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.
JetBlue Airways confirmed on Thursday that in September 2002, it provided 5 million passenger itineraries to a defense contractor for proof-of-concept testing of a Pentagon project unrelated to airline security -- with help from the Transportation Security Administration.
The contractor, Torch Concepts, then augmented that data with Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information, including income level, to develop what looks to be a study of whether passenger-profiling systems such as CAPPS II are feasible.
DontSpyOnUs is a good web site for coverage of this issue.
Untitled (blue star), Joe Ovelman
Appearing Saturday, September 13th
at the following locations:
10th Avenue, between 23rd and 24th Streets (Next to Car Wash)
West 25th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues (To the right of 531
Joe Ovelman and Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery are pleased to announce the
installation of two walls of images on Saturday, September 13. These
are the fifth and sixth walls in Joe Ovelman's series of outside
installations using walls from construction sites.
The walls consist of 124 feet of combined images culled from Ovelman's
Joe Ovelman will have a solo show of new work at Oliver Kamm/5BE
Gallery in February 2004.
UPDATED Saturday 1pm: The one on Tenth Avenue is still there, but the one on 25th Street has been torn down. We wouldn't want art defiling a big plywood wall while construction is being done, would we?
Shock and Awe has a good Harpers Index style post about that $87 billion. For example, it is $10 billion more than the combined GDP of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Herbert Muschamp, my favorite writer on architecture and public spaces, writes in the September 11, 2003 NY Times about receiving this collage from Ellsworth Kelly:
"On October 19, 2001," it began, "I wrote a letter to you (that I never sent) in response to an article in The New York Times which discussed the controversy of what was to be planned for the `Ground Zero' space, asking artists and others for their opinions." Mr. Kelly noted that two other artists, Joel Shapiro and John Baldessari, had urged that no building be erected at the site and that the architect Tadao Ando had made a similar proposition.
"At that time, my idea for the World Trade Center site was a large green mound of grass," he continued.
More recently he saw an aerial photograph of the site on the cover of the Aug. 31 Arts & Leisure section of The Times. "I was excited to see the site from this vantage point," he wrote. "I was inspired to make a collage of my idea for the space of which I am sending you."
"I feel strongly," he continued, "that what is needed is a 'visual experience,' not additional buildings, a museum, a list of names or proposals for a freedom monument." These, he said, are "distractions from a spiritual vision for the site: a vision for the future."
Now Muschamp writes:
Some think that minimal art is our country's most important contribution to culture. I'm not sure that this is true, or that it's even an American invention. Mies van der Rohe had developed it in architecture before setting foot on our soil. Yet it is true that minimalism has held a particular appeal to Americans. It enables us to withdraw from the midst of complexity without denying the manifold reality of contemporary life.
This tendency toward the unnecessary and in some cases even injurious elaboration of culture is one of the most significant phenomena of human life. It proves that the development of culture has become an end in itself. Man may be a rational being, but he certainly is not a utilitarian one. The constant revision and expansion of his social heredity is a result of some inner drive, not of necessity.
It seems possible that the human capacity for being bored, rather than man's social or natural needs lies at the root of man's cultural advance.
-- Ralph Linton, The Study of Man, 1936
[via The Banquet Years]
An initial disclaimer: I know this post is a bit of a mess, but I can't figure out how to put everything I want to talk about today into a coherent essay.
The Chilean presidential palace in Santiago on Sept. 11, 1973, when President Salvador Allende was overthrown.
September 11 is an anniversary for more than people who experienced the one in 2001. Today is the 30th anniversary of the US-backed coup which overthrew the democratically-elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende. Of course, one is more likely to see coverage of this fact in foreign media than in our own. I grabbed the photo above from a rather dismissive article in yesterday's NY Times, which spends a great deal of time blaming Allende for trying to move too quickly to the left. The article fails to mention the US involvement in the coup.
I was reminded of the unfortunate coincidence by a death that occurred this week -- that of Leni Riefenstahl.
What do you mean by that?" she asked, clearly surprised. "Where is my guilt? I can regret. I can regret that I made the party film, 'Triumph of the Will,' in 1934. But I cannot regret that I lived in that time. No anti-Semitic word has ever crossed my lips. I was never anti-Semitic. I did not join the party. So where then is my guilt? You tell me. I have thrown no atomic bombs. I have never betrayed anyone. What am I guilty of?"
The quote comes from an amazing film I watched earlier this year, The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, when the film maker confronted her over whether she should feel guilty.
It is an interesting question. She has been vilified for making films for the Third Reich, but people like Henry Kissinger who planned the Chile coup, and used our tax dollars to help pay for it, happily attend charity functions, serve on corporate boards, and get mentioned in the gossip columns. Henry Kissinger is as much of a war criminal as anyone alive in America, but no one attacks him -- I mean verbally or with some red paint -- when he arrives for lunch at The Four Seasons. I worked in 2 WTC on the 100th floor when I first moved to NYC in 1989. I remember seeing Kissinger in the lobby of my building one afternoon and the horror I felt at being in the same (albeit large) space.
I will admit I have never seen Olympia, but I recently watched Triumph of the Will. The latter is horribly brilliant. Seventy years later, one can be horrified by the regime it glorifies while at the same time being moved by the artistry of it. Also, this being 1934, the war had not begun, and seeing the faces of young men you knew would be dead within 10 years, or cities that were bombed to rubble when they still were masterpieces of centuries-old architecture, is chilling. As someone who cares deeply about art, it is... searching for words here... disturbing to see how art can make a vile regime appear heroic and virtuous.
Leni Riefenstahl was an artist, and in the 1930s she used her art for invidious purposes. Let's remember she did so in a regime that killed its opponents. Dachau, which I have visited, was built as soon as the Nazis achieved power, and was used to imprison political prisoners. Americans today say they don't understand how something like Nazi Germany could happen, but they can't even be bothered to pay enough attention to know that Iraq wasn't involved in 9/11, or to read newspapers, or to vote. I am no longer interested in hearing from Americans how the Germans didn't do enough to resist Hitler and the Nazis. No, they didn't do enough, but we as a people are in no position to talk about resistance to a regime that betrays the will of the people and commits atrocities in their name. The Bush regime doesn't have to put people in camps -- the "opposition" party runs screaming away as soon as their patriotism is questioned -- and the media rarely challenges any of its statements.
Being an artist doesn't absolve her of any responsibility, but I suspect that as a woman she took a chance to have the kind of money and opportunities that would have been quite rare for someone like her in the 1930s. Can someone explain to me what the mitigating circumstances might be for the likes of Nixon and Kissinger? What ends justified the means? Why we had to kill 55,000 Americans and millions of Viet Namese? Why we supported the people that killed an opponent of Pinochet with a car bomb in central Washington DC?
Someone asked me today if I felt sad about the anniversary. No, I don't. I am pissed off! Where is the independent investigation into 9/11? Where is the investigation into the anthrax mailings? Who is going to explain to us why we had to attack Iraq when Saudi Arabia provided the support and money for the 9/11 hijackers? There are questions that need to be answered if we're going to be anything other than a banana republic with the world's largest military.
Are Americans suckers? Is all they care about a chance to sit at home and watch another stupid reality show?
I think the majority of Americans have the government and the leaders they deserve, but those of us with some brains, a little common sense, and a sense of decency do not deserve to live under this regime.
As promised, we went back at 3 for the kids leaving at the end of the school day. By this point, only the twinkie guy and the two others (that got left when the Phelps clan left via shiny Lincolns in the morning) were there. I added a few more photos to the gallery.
The twinkie guy held an extension cord to demonstrate the male/female aspect of electrical plugs, saying that this proved that homosexuality was unnatural. Someone yelled at him to tell him his big tool belt was "very Village People." I was amused to see him waving the plugs at the transgender kids that walked across the street to confront him. Their cohorts over on our side of the street yelled encouragements, such as "smack him with your tits!" and chanted "We're people! Not Plugs!"
After a bit the two bible guys walked over to the corner of Astor and Broadway -- out of their pen! A group of us went with our signs to get between them and the kids headed that way on their way out of the school. At first the police didn't like it and told us to go back to our pen, but we told them we didn't want the kids to get yelled at by the bible-thumpers. They were sympathetic, and just brought some more barricades and made us and the two bigots a new holding area. Our original four good guys were eventually joined by more people, including several teachers from other schools that had arrived by that point. I had a bit more flashback to my southern upbringing than I wanted as one of them yelled in the cadence of a fire and brimstone preacher about gays, AIDS, etc. It was an interesting experience -- we were standing right next to them in a 4' x 10' barricaded space next to Astor Hair.
One of the kids handed us a white paper heart that said, "My Big Gay Heart Loves You."
Updated: See James's afternoon report, including some nice photos of the kids that crossed the street to confront the bigots.
Fred "God hates Fags" Phelps, the man famous for picketing funeral of people who have died of AIDS and the Matthew Shepard funeral, arrived with his little group to protest the first day of school at Harvey Milk High School.
There are a lot more anti-Phelps protesters -- we arrived at 7:30am and there was already a huge crowd.
I have a gallery with a few photos I took. Highlights of the morning:
- The crowd cheered the school kids as they walked past us to enter the school.
- The Police actually moved the barricades to give us more room, and put us closer to the Phelps gang across the street, when the "FAGS FDNY" and "Thank God for 9/11" signs appeared. I'm sure they also appreciated it when the Phelps people brought out the American flags to stand on.
- Someone yelled out, "Love the purple jacket, Fred!"
- Around 8:15 black towncars arrived and took most of the Phelps people away. They used a car service!
- There was one heavy guy on the Phelps side wearing a Twinkie box as a hat.
- They used printed lyrics to help them out while singing.
- There was a big garbage truck next to them, being loaded with demolition debris, for most of the demo. When it left around 8:30, people yelled, "Hey! Your ride is leaving!"
I'll be back there at 3:00 when the kids get out of school.
Here is what I wrote when people started screaming about segregation and "the gay high school."
Updated: James's post and photos are up too.
Updated again -- I'm in the photo at the top of the MSNBC article -- the blue and white striped shirt.
Last night President Flight Suit said we're going to ask the rest of the world for money and bodies to help us clean up the mess we created in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman had this diplomatic thing to say about "Old Europe":
"Mr. Boucher," a reporter asked at the daily briefing, "do you have anything on the proposal for the creation of a European Union military headquarters in Brussels independent of NATO, something that has angered the United States, according to reports?"
"I'm not quite sure what proposal that is," Boucher said, according to a transcript. "You mean the one from the four countries [Belgium, Germany, France and Luxembourg] that got together and had a little . . . had a little bitty summit . . . ."
"That's exactly it," the reporter said, "and Belgium insisting to . . . "
"Yeah, the chocolate makers," Boucher quipped and reporters laughed. "Sorry. No, I . . . I think they've been referred to that way in the press; I shouldn't repeat things I see in the press."
Artist Kiki Smith works on a piece of art in this undated publicity photo. Smith is among the artists that PBS' 'Art in the Twenty-First Century' follows, documneting the challenging proscess of transforming inspiration into art. The series airs at 9 p.m. EDT Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 9-10 (check local listings). (AP Photo/PBS/Art21)
After years of never watching TV, I'm still getting used to having a digital recorder, and looking to see what's on TV that I might actually want to see.
As a visual person, I look at Yahoo! Top Stories Photos to see what they're showing. I was amazed to see a photo of Kiki Smith on the page. It was to illustrate the TV show Art in the 21st Century on PBS. How have I not heard of this?! A show that talks to the likes of her, Paul Pfeiffer, Collier Schorr, etc. is definitely something I want to see. The web page gives air dates, so set those recorders.
I saw Kiki Smith in person at LFL Gallery when I was there for Danica Phelps's opening on Friday night.
It's time to be there for the Harvey Milk kids on Monday morning and afternoon.
Fred Phelps and his ilk will be screaming their god-soaked obscenities at young gay kids on Monday as they attend the first day of school.
Supporters are encouraged to be at the school at 7:30 am on Monday, September 8 (first class is at 8:00 a.m.) and 3:00 pm (end of school day), with happy signs and encouragement. The Harvey Milk School is located at Two Astor Place at the corner of Astor and Broadway (take the 6 train to Astor Place or the N or R to 8th Street and Broadway).
James has more info.
Last Sunday we went walking around LIC - to see the Socrates Sculpture Park and catch a bit of the Float parade.
The Marching Band playing "Like a Virgin"
Austin Thomas and her gold El Camino
(Other images are thumbnails in the interest of reasonable download times)
Artist on Wheels -- an organization that encourages disabled people to explore their artistic abilities
Clubhouse by Jesse Bercowetz, Matt Bua, Sabine Heinlein, and local kids
The last thing I'm posting is a sad one that makes me angry. When something happens like the seawall crumbling in a Manhattan park across the river, it gets fixed. We don't put up chain link fences to cut off people from the water for years, hoping it will eventually be restored before the whole park falls into the river. The predominantly non-white people who visit the Queensbridge Park don't get such treatment. The parks along the water were full of families having cookouts and enjoying themselves, but most of the park was cut off from the water. A study, not an actual repair plan, has been announced regarding what's going to happen. The park was built in the 1930s, when our country was better able to find money to fund public amenities than it is now.
Yea! A non-war post!
...the best minds of my generation (suck)
24"x30", Enamel on plywood.
Johan Olander, 2003
We recently encountered the clever work of Johan Olander at a preview for Russell Simmons's "Art for Life" benefit at Kenny Schachter's gallery in the Village. It was organized by Simon Watson, the sweetest person working in the arts, and head of Downtown Arts Projects.
On the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, seven in ten Americans continue to believe that Iraqs Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks.
I blame the media for being collaborators with the Bush regime.
... an occasional series...
We're lucky the Bush regime doesn't just put poor people without health insurance into concentration camps. Their only health proposal this year seems to be making it easier for emergency rooms to deny care to the uninsured.
While watching the credits for Bowling for Columbine, I noticed Yoko Ono was one of the people in the list of acknowledgements. If we were more like Canada, John Lennon would probably still be alive.
I think now is a good time to revisit the first paragraph of an op-ed by Richard Perle in The Guardian, published as the attack on Iraq began.
Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.
Updated: I had put George rather than Richard as Perle's first name. Funny -- the former is a composer who wrote several books on my shelf about Berg's operas. Thanks to idols of the marketplace for the correction.
Apparently the Bush regime feels the opposite approach makes sense.
From an op-ed piece by Donald Hepburg in yesterday's NY Times:
So, how much is this experiment in nation-building going to cost the American taxpayer? First, let's consider what has already been spent. According to the Pentagon, the cost of preparation, aid to noncombatant allies and the invasion itself amounted to $45 billion. Then there is the much-bandied "billion dollars a week" phrase, which seems an accurate estimate of military expenses since the end of serious fighting in May. Assuming a five-year occupation, that's some $300 billion.
But these familiar figures are only part of the story. First, as these are borrowed funds, they are already incurring interest charges. More important, according to material released by American officials, the United States must meet an estimated $5 billion in initial humanitarian aid and $8 billion in Iraqi government salaries, as well as about $7 billion for repairs to public utilities and to restore vital services over the next two years.
It will also most likely cost $3 billion to re-settle nearly one million Iraqi refugees who are returning from exile (there are also an estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who were displaced within the country and will need aid to rebuild their communities). Ordinarily, assistance could be expected to come through United Nations and nongovernmental groups, but in this case the diplomatic difficulties surrounding the invasion leave the situation unsettled.
Still, the biggest problem facing Iraq is that after decades of corruption, economic stagnation and declining productivity, it faces at least a decade's worth of reconstruction and improvements. This will include rebuilding ports, farms, roads, telecommunications systems, power plants, hospitals and water systems, as well as introducing a medical benefit plan, a national pension scheme, and new laws for foreign investment and intellectual property rights. The country needs a revised criminal code and judiciary system, a new tax code and collection system, and an electoral voting system with appropriate technology. Using postwar American and United Nations estimates for these and many other tasks, the total bill is likely to be at least $200 billion over a decade.
Clearly, such a program cannot be financed entirely by Iraq's oil reserves. Those who accused the Bush administration of instigating a "war for oil" certainly hadn't done the math. Before the war the hope was that Iraq's annual production could relatively quickly rise to $15 billion to $20 billion per year. However, the system is far more decrepit than such estimates assumed, and combined with the near-daily sabotage of facilities and pipelines, it appears that oil revenues will rise only slowly over the next three years, from approximately $10 billion in 2004 to $20 billion in 2006.
Major international oil companies are expected to invest $40 billion in joint ventures with Iraq's state oil company, but this will be for exploration and new development, not to rehabilitate the existing facilities. By 2010, even in the best case, production would increase at most to six million barrels a day, bringing total revenues to about $40 billion a year.
I did not include the section about Iraq's $350 billion in foreign debt. Do we think the countries we derided as chocolate makers and Old Europe are just going to forgive the debts? Do we think anyone is going to loan money to a new U.S.-approved government without a plan to repay the current debts?
Also in the news yesterday were the results of a new study from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives the state of U.S. infrastructure a grade of D-:
The report blamed the deteriorating infrastructure on a weak economy, limited federal programs, population growth and the threat of terrorism, which diverted money to security.
Americans concerns about security threats are real, but so are the threats posed by crumbling infrastructure, Thomas Jackson, ASCE president, said in a statement. It doesnt matter if the dam fails because cracks have never been repaired or if it fails at the hands of a terrorist. The towns below the dam will still be devastated.
There was no progress for schools, which received the worst grade - D-minus - from the engineers in 2001. The report said three out of four school buildings are inadequate. They estimate it will cost more than $127 billion to build new classrooms and modernize outdated schools.
Energy transmission earned a D-plus two years ago, and the engineers said the trend is getting worse. Investment in transmission fell by $115 million annually, to $2 billion a year in 2000 from $5 billion in 1975. Actual capacity increased by only 7,000 megawatts a year, 30 percent less than needed to keep up with power demand.
Roads didnt fare much better. The nation is failing to even maintain the substandard conditions we currently have, the report said, adding that the average rush hour grew by more than 18 minutes between 1997 and 2000.
The engineers report also saw no improvement on bridges, noting that 27.5 percent of U.S. bridges were structurally deficient or obsolete in 2000.
It's not bad enough that we have an Olive Garden and a friggin' Outback Steakhouse in the neighborhood. Now I learn that Home Depot is opening a store on West 23rd between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Hello, truck gridlock!
Regarding the cheap art sale at Art Resources Transfer: GO NOW!
They are selling works now, not just 7-9 tonight.
Art Resources Transfer is having a benefit on Thursday, September 4, from 7-9pm. Artworks, valued from $250 on up, will be on sale for $100-$250.
This is your last chance for one of these. ART is ending its gallery program to concentrate on publishing and the DUC (Distribution to Underserved Communities) program.
On an unrelated note, I'm starting to get spam with a subject line of "Good blog" or "Good blog post". Bastards!
Kyle Gann, composer and one of my favorite writers on music, has a new weblog titled PostClassic.