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Looking Back on the Cheney Presidency

July 4th, 2002 by

Looking Back on the Cheney Presidency

It was five days ago today that the Dick Cheney presidency ended, yet the event still remains firmly embedded in our collective memory. There are few among us who will ever forget where we were during those amazing two hours and fifteen minutes of Cheney’s reign in the White House–and as we head into this historic fourth of July weekend, the time seems ripe for us all to look back and try to make some sense of those distant but compelling events of June 29, 2002.

Who among us will ever forget the stirring sensations of 7:08 a.m., when Cheney, as he glared out the Oval Office window in the direction of the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, shifted in his seat, snorted, and tugged at an irritating fold in the inseam of his trousers, as he awaited news of the administration of anesthesia to George Bush?

President CheneyOr what about the electrifying drama of 7:16 a.m., when, after inexplicably sitting mute and with his mouth open for the first seven minutes of his presidency, Cheney suddenly lunged and pulled open the top drawer of Bush’s desk, to see what was inside?

Most historians today agree that future generations will likely look beyond what is now considered the key event of the Cheney presidency — the notorious “enormous dump” of minutes 47-62– and find a deeper meaning to his rule. Many observers, like Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believe that Americans will eventually remember the Cheney era as a time of relative prosperity and optimism, particularly since it came at time when most of us were still asleep and, as it was still early in the morning, largely free of any immediate pressure to feign sexual interest in our wives.

The world was at peace during the Cheney era. Across the earth, men treated each other with kindness and decency as never before. In a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, a German businessman asks for a check–and gets it. Sao Paolo, Brazil, 7:36 EST: a man catches a fish. Mexico City, the same time: two hookers brush their teeth. Ten minutes later, in Kyoto and Archangelsk, respectively: a bicycle goes unstolen and an icicle falls thirteen stories, striking only a cat.

Harmony was the order of the day in the Cheney era. Motorists everywhere stopped at intersections and then moved on again, seeing that the light had turned green. At Wimbledon, part of one-half of the fourth round of the men’s draw played to near-completion. In France, a nation faced an afternoon. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. We were all a little bit younger, and a little more gay. It was a time when the president of the United States could stare at a notepad for twenty minutes, convinced that he had spelled the word “containment” wrong; it was a time when a slug could crawl almost six feet.

We knew who we were during the Cheney era. When we woke up that morning, our wallet was still in our pants. There were still three beers left in the fridge–two Genesees and a Molson. It was still too early in our lives to sort out what had happened the night before, and how this fat girl with a mole had come to be sleeping in our bed, and wearing our Motley Crue T-shirt. It was time when there was still a chance to get her the hell out of there before our friends found out, a time when you could still hope to promise her breakfast at Le Metro, and instead push her out of the car in the parking lot at Jim’s Steak-Out. The reality of 10:37 a.m. and 12:42 p.m., when she was still there and still flipping through your photo albums, had yet to set in. And the nightmare of Tuesday, July 2, when you yourself called her up late at night and asked her to come over, using the back entrance, was as yet a distant and seemingly unreal possibility.

Today, we now know that this golden age came cruelly to an end when endoscopist James Butler clicked off his head-lamp and pulled his scope out of the colon of George W. Bush. Twenty minutes after the procedure ended, our elected president awoke, and the Cheney era galloped off on its august steed, vanishing into the muddy prairie of history. How will we remember this time? What profound emotions will those memories set astir? We at the BEAST only wish we knew, and like the rest of you, we can only wait–and let time cast its vote.

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MEAN SWEEP

July 4th, 2002 by

MEAN SWEEP
While Allentown geared up for its street festival, police held their own block party on the lower West Side
By Matt Taibbi

They stopped traffic in part of Allentown last weekend. Some of you might have noticed. For about a block in every direction at the intersection of Allen and Elmwood last Sunday, the streets were closed off for nine hours while the Artvoice festival played itself out. There were dozens of bands, heavy sales of crafts and trinkets, lots of licensed food and beverage vendor activity, not a whiff of unfriendliness or ugly behavior… in short, it was exactly the sort of polite, carefully run, business-friendly event that passes for a rollicking cultural celebration among upper-middle-class white people these days. Although I cannot count myself among them, I heard that there were many people in attendance who enjoyed themselves that day.

Probably very few of those people, however, were aware that there had been another block party of sorts in that same area just a few days before. On the morning of Wednesday, June 27, in the heart of a predominantly Hispanic section of the lower West side, police blocked off traffic on West Avenue between Maryland and Virginia for the surprise launch of a new city initiative called Operation Clean Sweep.

There were a lot of people on West Avenue that morning, but none of them were dancing or selling pottery. Mainly they were city, state, and federal officials, although a few television reporters were also there. The list of attendees was actually quite long. It included the Buffalo Police, Parole Officers, U.S. Marshals, the Fire Department, Social Services representatives, Animal Control, Building inspectors, and representatives of a number of public utilities, including Niagara Mohawk and Adelphia cable.

“There were so many people that I got blinded,” said Gladys Polidura, 43, who lives on the block.

“I can’t even tell you how many of them there were,” said her neighbor, Alicia Perez, 33. “I couldn’t count them. There were that many.”

Alicia Perez
Alicia Perez said her daughter was frightened by all the visitors Perez wasn’t talking about the people on the street. She was talking about the ones who were in her house. Operation Clean Sweep, modeled after a similar program in Rochester called Project Uplift, is a door-to-door “outreach” program, ostensibly designed to help improve the “quality of life” in what are generally referred to euphemistically as “troubled” or “blighted” neighborhoods.

The way it works is that a police officer knocks on every door on the block, identifies himself, explains that he is accompanied by a variety of agencies that are there to answer questions and help improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, and then ultimately asks if one or more of the helpers might come in.

The city claims that the agencies were there solely to assist people–to answer safety questions, to fix faulty gas lines, to install new sprinklers, clear debris, cut grass, and to listen to complaints about delinquent landlords and building repair problems.

Were they there for any other reason? The city says no.

Most of the residents of West Avenue think they city’s lying about that.

In describing what happened last Wednesday, they say that it’s hard not to conclude that if Operation Clean Sweep is not first and foremost a law enforcement fishing expedition, and an elaborate attempt to get around search and seizure laws, then it is doing a very poor job of not looking like either or both.

What is Clean Sweep? On television, it looked like a ribbon-cutting; it even had the Mayor there to kick things off and shake a few hands.

It looked a little different from the business end of it.

*    *    *

WEST AVENUE between Maryland and Virginia is located squarely in the middle of what is generally considered a somewhat nasty part of the lower West Side. You can drive through the intersection of Maryland and West at almost any hour and see some fairly obvious (if low-key) drug-dealing going on. Just this past February, there was a shooting at the corner of Maryland and West, in the second of three broken-down yellow tenement houses on the east side of the street at the end of the block.

The “three yellow houses,” which many of the people who live on the block believe were the real target of Clean Sweep, have a notorious reputation in the neighborhood–apparently a deserved one, as even some of the people who actually live in those houses told me.

“These houses should be burned to the ground,” said a tenant in the third house, who asked not to be named. “They’re total rat holes.” He took me into his apartment and showed me around, and he was right; the walls were literally rotting in there. It was hard to imagine anyone actually living there for any length of time, and one could imagine any responsible building inspector reasonably wanting to check the place out.

A man named Pete who not long ago moved into the second house said that his new home had recently been the site of drug-dealing on a scale he’d never seen before. “It was like McDonald’s,” he said, pointing out the door and around the corner. “They used to just line up here. Over 20 billion served, you know.”

The three yellow houses are the black eye of the block; ask anyone in the neighborhood, and you’ll hear stories of crack and heroin addicts roaming the backs of the houses at night, tricking going on in various floors, all kinds of sordid stuff. A beat cop working his very first day in the neighborhood could figure out pretty quickly that the yellow houses were the problem spot on the block, and it probably wouldn’t take very long to find probable cause to get into one or all of them.

As reasonable a target of police attention the three yellow houses might appear to be, the rest of the block appears that unlikely a target. There’s a well-maintained, cool-looking clothing store called JT’s Inner-City Sportswear across the street from the yellow houses, whose owner, Juan Morrero, maintains that the street is a decent-enough place to do business. If anything, Morrero said, it’s the police that scare his customers away.

“I had a guy come down here from uptown just to check out my store,” he said. “He comes in here, buys a couple hundred dollars worth of clothes, and the instant he gets out of the store, the cops stop him, search his car, find a bag of weed, and take him to jail for the night.” He laughed. “The guy told me it was nothing personal, but he’s never coming back here again.”

After the clothing store, the rest of that side of the block is lined from one end to another with family-occupied houses, most of which are owner-occupied and in decent enough repair. The majority of the people I spoke to on the street were middle-class, had jobs and appeared to take care of their properties.

That’s not to say that the block doesn’t have certain striking geographical features. The family houses on the West side of the street are nearly all occupied and owned by Hispanics. On the east side, after the yellow houses, there is a vacant lot and then there are two more homes, both of which are occupied by white tenants. The tension between the two sides of the street is obvious and palpable, and admitted readily by residents on both sides.

“They don’t like the way we live,” said Carlos Velasquez, owner of 88 West, a house located directly opposite the two white-occupied houses. He pointed across the street. “It’s because we’re out here on the porch all the time. But that’s Puerto Rican culture, man. We like to be out on the porch.”

Valerie Niederhoffer, a white woman who lives in one of those houses Velasquez was pointing to, explained her view on the matter when asked why she thought the city had chosen this particular block to launch Operation Clean Sweep. “I think they wanted to send a message,” she said. “They wanted to send a message that these people live in a city, that this is Buffalo, not some third world area, some zone protected by…”

By what?

“Poverty,” she concluded, taking a moment to choose the right word. All of these tensions would come to the surface when the Clean Sweep circus showed up last week, as both sides of the street differed sharply on what the city was doing there, why they had come, and, most notably, who was responsible for bringing the official parade to this particular spot.

*    *    *

IT DOESN’T TAKE a lot of digging to conclude that Clean Sweep’s official mandate does not make a whole lot of sense. It is being sold to the public a nothing more than an outreach program, designed to help clean up neighborhoods and assist residents with problems of home upkeep. But everywhere you look, you find the roots of the program in city and federal anti-drug operations.

The program was originally conceived by an organization called Save Our Streets, whose coordinator, Tiffany Perry, describes her agency as “a task force comprised of city, county, and federal agencies” whose “primary function is to deal with drug-dealing on residential properties.” Although she stopped short of calling Save our Streets a law enforcement task force, she conceded that law enforcement makes up a large part of the organization, and that it includes participation from the Buffalo Police, the Sheriff’s department, Parole and Probation officers, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the District Attorney’s office.

It goes without saying that this is a strange collection of people to be worried about poor plumbing, unmowed laws, and building code violations.

I asked Perry why West Avenue in particular was chosen as the inaugural site for Clean Sweep.

“Well,” she said. “There’ve been a lot of complaints on that block.” About what?

“Well,” she said. “I deal with drugs. There have been a lot of complaints about drugs. And other complaints…”

I pointed out the apparent contradiction; you choose a place because there are complaints about drugs, and then you say you’re there to clean up yards and do fix-it work.

“Well,” she said. “That’s what we deal with. We deal with drugs. I get involved with other issues, but drugs are prevalent.”

A few minutes later, Perry backtracked, and insisted that there had been other complaints on the block, among other things concerns about the decrepit state of the vacant lot on the east side of the street. And when I asked her directly if it was reasonable to conclude that an operation launched by an organization whose primary mandate is about drug-dealing in homes, responding primarily to complaints about drug-dealing in homes, was in fact acting with the primary aim of doing something about drug-dealing in homes, she insisted that I had the wrong idea.

“This is a community outreach program. That’s all,” she said.

Then there was the other question. If this was not a law enforcement operation, why did it need to be a surprise?

“It has to be a surprise because…” she began. “If people know about it ahead of time, they…” She paused. “Well, it just works better as a surprise,” she concluded finally.

Then there is the question of the personnel makeup. It is obviously very difficult to understand the presence of U.S. Marshals and parole officers in terms of “community outreach.” When I asked Common Councilman Brian Davis, whose Ellicott district includes the West Ave. block, why there needed to be parole officers involved in the operation there, he appeared uncomfortable.

Davis, a black Council member who has only been in office for six months, seems in interviews to be a genuinely nice and well-meaning man who approves of the program on the whole, while being embarrassed by certain aspects of it. On the parole officer issue, Davis’s explanation was that the officers were there “to see if there were any of their…clients were there, and to ask them if they had any questions.”

It seems to me that if you have questions for your parole officer, you can ask them in your meetings with him–which, of course, if you are on parole, you have to go to.

When I asked Perry why parole officers and U.S. Marshals (whose normal law enforcement mandate in neighborhoods like this is usually confined to helping serve eviction notices and locating fugitives) had to be involved, she replied that they were there “to assist with security. These workers don’t know what they’re getting into in these neighborhoods.”

But if Buffalo police are already there, why do you need U.S. Marshals for security?

Perry answered that U.S. Marshals, being part of the task force, were unusually positioned to provide security for the operation as it continues in different regions of the city. The Buffalo police, on the other hand, are broken down into individual precincts, which makes it harder for the same officers to participate in the operation in different areas. In order to have officers with experience involved, she explained, it was convenient to make use of U.S. Marshals.

No fewer than six Hispanic West Ave residents that I relayed this explanation to had the same one-word response: “Bullshit.”

Beyond the holes in the official explanation for the operation, there was the actual operation itself, which resulted in a series of incidents that a majority of the street’s residents said were impossible to explain as “helping” and “assistance.” Among them:

  • At 77 West Ave., Raul Hernandez said that police and inspectors entered his mother’s home even after his mother, who does not speak English, expressly told a Clean Sweep translator she did not want them to enter.
  • Just across the street, Maria Avilez said that police asked her if she was planning to move, and asked her for the exact address of the location she was planning to move to.
  • Jessica Ramirez said that police came to her door and asked for her by name, and then asked her to produce identification.
  • Alicia Peres and Wilson Velasquez said that after inspectors entered their house on the pretext of checking the gas and power connections, they looked inside but never went into the basement, where the gas lines and the meters were located.
  • Ten residents had their cable cut by Adelphia representatives, who were “helping out” by searching for illegal cable hookups.

There were other stories. According to Avilez, police chided her about what kind of food she was feeding her two and a half year-old child.

“They were like, hey, why are you feeding your kid an egg?” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I mean, who are these people to come in and tell me what to feed my children?”

Her neighbor, 19-year-old Erian Rivera, laughed at the story. “I don’t know what they eat in the suburbs, man, but we eat different food,” he said. “We eat red beans and rice. I don’t know what they want us to eat.”

Nearly everybody on the Hispanic side of the street had the same answer when asked what Clean Sweep was all about.

“They were looking for something,” said Rivera.

“They were looking for drugs or something,” said Gladys Polidura.

Oliveras: “They do this because they know Hispanic people have no power.” “They just wanted to take a look around, it’s all about the complaints from the other side of the street,” said Carlos Velasquez.

“They do this,” said 19-year-old Juan Olivera, “because Hispanic people don’t have a lot of power, and they know we can’t do much about it.”

Alicia Perez
Erian Rivera, left, and Juan Oliveras, right.

I told several people about Niederhoffer’s remark that the police were trying to send a message that this was “not the third world.”

“If this isn’t the third world,” said Jessica Ramirez, “then why are you violating my rights? This is America. You can’t do things like this. They say they’re helping people, they’re cutting cable and gas, and looking in people’s houses. It’s not right.”

*    *    *

AS IS OFTEN the case in stories like this, the gravest insult came not in the operation itself, but in the press coverage that followed it.

A day after the operation was concluded, The Buffalo News ran a story on the front page of the Metro section. Written by reporter Brian Meyer, the piece was entitled, amazingly, “Residents Praise Clean Sweep.” Here is the lead to that piece:

“Residents of the Lower West Side are praising a new program that aims to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods by attacking blight, housing violations, and other nuisances.”

After reading the piece carefully, I called Meyer with a question. I asked him if he had actually interviewed anyone at all who lived on the block that was the subject of Clean Sweep.

Meyer, who on the phone sounds like a dental hygienist, answered in a nasal voice that he had, indeed, interviewed a West side resident named Lucy Lopez. I’d already asked people on West about this Lucy Lopez. The typical response: “Who the fuck is Lucy Lopez?”

So I asked Meyer who Lucy Lopez was. As it turned out, she didn’t live on that block. She was just a resident of the area–not the street that had been visited.

After a painful five-minute conversation, Meyer eventually admitted that he had not interviewed a single person who actually lived on West Avenue, between Maryland and Virginia, or had been visited by police during Clean Sweep.

Most of the residents of the neighborhood, who sensibly do not read The Buffalo News as a rule, had not seen the article. But when I showed them Meyer’s piece, they were nearly all incredulous.

“It says what?” asked Sean Gonzalez.

I showed him the article. “Just read the headline. ‘Residents Praise Clean Sweep.’”

Gonzalez shook his head. “Lying-ass motherfucker,” he said.

Alicia Perez
The News never interviewed any “Residents” on West Ave.

I told him I’d compose a letter to the editor of The News on the neighborhood’s behalf, which would state that it might have been nice if the paper had actually interviewed any residents that had been subjects of Clean Sweep before concluding that they praised it. The next day, he and twelve others–everyone I could find on the West side of the street–signed it. Carlos Velasquez even added his social security number next to his signature. “Tell them that they can check up on me if they like,” he said.

*   *   *

CLEAN SWEEP might very well be legal, and fall short of the usual definition of an improper search. But one doesn’t need a lawyer to see that this is, to use the language of the neighborhood, some seriously fucked-up shit–and that the primary offense here was psychological, not legal.

Ask yourself how you’d feel if you woke up one morning, looked out the window, and saw an army of cops, marshals, dogcatchers, representatives of the utilities whose bills you might be late in paying, fire inspectors, parole officers, even the goddamn Mayor loitering outside your house. Then think about how you’d feel if one of them knocked on the door, and asked to come inside.

Even Councilman Davis admits that part of the purpose of Clean Sweep is to leave residents with lasting memories of this visually impressive spectacle.

“It gives folks something to think about,” he said. “If they are criminal-minded, criminal-elemented [sic], some of the individuals, I think it will make them think twice, because they don’t know when this is going to come.”

That’s “help”? That’s “assistance”? They have another name for it in most countries.

I asked Davis if he was aware that there have been other “Operation Clean Sweeps” in American history. One was a helicopter search-and-destroy mission in the Hau Nghia province of Vietnam in 1966; in that one, American pilots provided

cover while South Vietnamese troops bulldozed rural villages. Then there was the Indonesian Operation Clean Sweep of 1999, in which U.S.-trained members of the elite Kopassus unit of the Indonesian military entered regions of East Timor in disguise, and massacred sympathizers of the East Timor independence movement.

Not exactly the kinds of associations you want people to have when you’re talking about surprise visits by government officials with armed escorts into poor neighborhoods.

Alicia Perez
The original “Operation
Clean Sweep”

“No kidding,” Davis said. “Maybe we should have called it ‘Clean Up.’ ” Maybe.

Everyone knows that there are problems in inner-city neighborhoods that need to be fixed. It’s how you go about fixing them that’s the issue.

Here’s how the city tried to fix economic depression downtown: it offered millions to help Adelphia cable build a new skyscraper.

Operation Clean Sweep is what they’ve thought up for poor neighborhoods. I’d be angry, too.

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Books That Was In Nam

July 4th, 2002 by

Book ReviewBooks That Was In Nam
By John Dolan

Dispatches
by Michael Herr
Vintage 1977

Everything We Had
ed. by Al Santoli
Random House 1981

Once A Warrior King
by David Donovan
Ballantine 1986

Chickenhawk
by Robert Mason
Penguin 1983

We Were Soldiers Once…And Young
by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway
Harper Perennial 1992

Mel Gibson’s Vietnam movie We Were Soldiers just hit New Zealand, so I’ve had to deal with endless commercials of that sagging beagle-face of his, carefully smeared with artificial dirt and smoke, rallying the troops in a laughable attempt at a Southern accent. Having seen The Patriot, featuring Mel doing a similarly rotten Carolina accent as he ran around chopping up Redcoats with a teeny little tomahawk, I think I’ll skip his remake of Vietnam.

But it did send me back to reread the book Mel bought to use as the basis of the film: We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. It seemed like a good occasion to review some of the innumerable Vietnam memoirs I’ve bought over the years.

Yes, chillun, I am old enough to remember that once upon a time, nice people didn’t even want to talk about Vietnam, let alone read about it. Now how did it git so’s they don’t hardly wanna talk ’bout nuthin’ else? Gather ’round the fire and I’ll tell you all about it.

Avoiding Nam was pretty much a fulltime job for sensible Americans of the 70s. It didn’t look like fun yet — not when it was actually happening. That took several years and about a thousand war memoirs. At the time, it looked like a remarkably uninteresting war, with wretched losers from inland America standing around the paddies twitching nervously, wondering whether the water buffalo in the next field was going to whip out a Kalashnikov and start shooting.

Dispatches

That changed very slowly. The first book to make Nam seem cool was Michael Herr’s Dispatches. This was the first Nam book taught at universities (I encountered it in a course at Berkeley). Herr wrote as one of the college boys who didn’t fight. He was there to watch, write, and make a name for himself. He wrote guilty erotica, and spoke for the smart guys who got themselves deferments but always wondered what they would’ve done if they’d gone: “You know how it is, you want to look and you don’t want to look. I can remember the strange feelings I had as a kid looking at the war photographs in Life…”

Since the deferred guys were the core of the teaching pool at most American universities, they tended to assign Herr’s book, and it became one of those “instant classics” which make it more for demographic than artistic insights. Herr’s book was a first draft of Apocalypse Now, with Hendrix soundtrack and quick cuts between cool gore and Saigon lies. It doesn’t read particularly well now; there’s too much caution there, like someone trying to do Hunter S. Thompson after halfheartedly inhaling one tiny line of speed. But then that’s always the way to crack the upscale porn market: just a little whiff of the really hard stuff, enough to grab the safe people. After all, the safe, guilty males of the Nam era had two advantages over the ones who went: they had graduated to teaching jobs and could force large numbers of students to buy the book — and they were alive.

Herr’s book came out in ’77, two years after the fall of Saigon. It was a while before anybody wanted to hear from the losers who’d actually gone and fought in Nam. It took a lot of concerted lying, in films like Deer Hunter, to erase all those images and persuade the home folks that the enterprise had been a noble one.

In strictly literary terms, this great lie was of some benefit, because there are few genres as rich as the war memoir. Virtually anyone who saw combat and has a decent memory can write a decent book about it — and Vietnam, a war characterized by thousands of small skirmishes, was richer in incident and gore than an inner-city basketball tournament. When next you hear that rough voice asking, “War — what is it good for?”, you tell it: “First-person memoirs, that’s what!”

Everything We Had

By 1981, the memoirs were coming fast. The first and in some ways still the best was Everything We Had, a collection of oral reminiscences by 33 vets who’d done everything from nursing the wounded to slitting throats with Bob Kerrey and his pals. I’d still recommend this book as a starter-kit for the prospective Nam fan, because the 33 voices offer something for virtually everyone. Parts of the book are very funny, as when Gayle, the cute li’l nurse, recalls her answer when asked if she’d serve on a ward for Vietnamese casualties: “And I said, ‘No, I would probably kill them.’ and she said, ‘Well, maybe we won’t transfer you there.’” And they say the Army has no heart!

By the early 80s, it was not just cool to’ve served in Nam; it was glorious. It was, in fact, the only sort of martial glory available (Grenada didn’t quite carry the same “cachet,” as they said in the Reagan era.) Every Vet still alive and compos mentis — and some who weren’t — headed for that early-model KayPro or Northstar keyboard to turn his ranting into cash. They were a little confused at first, having been shunned and pitied as they dragged their way from halfway house to detox to medium-security institution…but slowly a canny ambition shouted down the voices babbling in their addled heads with the news that the war stories which had driven the wife and kids to move out with no forwarding address were now box-office boffo.

And damned if many of them, fingers trembling on the keyboard, one hand on the Jack Daniels or rolled-up twenty, didn’t hunt-and-peck out some quite good books.

This high literary output was a delayed gift of the utter lack of strategy which doomed the American enterprise in Vietnam: a war which consisted largely of sending small contingents of infantry out into the jungle to find the enemy, usually by getting ambushed, is bound to be a military disaster — but equally bound to produce an extraordinary number of fantastic combat tales. As Walter puts it in Big Lebowski: “Me and Charlie, eyeball to eyeball.” Throw in the treachery of the South Vietnamese, the social and racial bombs going off non-stop back home, the feeling of abandonment, the music — greatest soundtrack of any war ever — and you had the elements of better stories than more intelligently-conducted wars could ever yield. (If there were any true aesthetes worthy of Oscar Wilde’s mantle, they’d've agitated for the continuation of the war at all costs. Alas, dreary Utilitarian ethics have conquered us so thoroughly that not a single voice urged the continuation of the war as the greatest performance art of the century.)

I’ve read a dozen of these memoirs, and enjoyed almost all of them. They come in all flavors. There’s the raunchy defeatism of F. N. G., which describes a “fuckin’ new guy” entering an infantry squad after Tet, when the Americans had pretty much given up trying to win and were fighting a strange, highly mobile but essentially defensive war. Then there’s Once A Warrior King, describing one very conservative Virginian’s relatively straightforward war, working with a fiercely anti-VC village in the Delta. This is Greene’s Quiet American told by the quiet A. himself, as it were — and he tells a good story. It’s the food I remember best, in that one: the long descriptions of roasted rat with fish-sauce. That’s one of the delights of war and prison memoirs: you can count, in these solidly grounded stories, on some excellent descriptions of meals good and bad. (The POW memoir, combining the genres, often yields the most mouth-watering descriptions of all; if you want a book full of the delight of eating, read Brendan Behan’s one good book, Borstal Boy.)

Chickenhawk

The best of all these might be Chickenhawk, the story of a helicopter pilot who was, as Martin Sheen says of “Chef” in Apocalypse Now, “…wound up a little too tight for Vietnam.” Robert Mason, the pilot-narrator, takes the reader in and out of so many LZs, hot, cold and medium, that you develop a veteran’s wince everytime his slick starts descending toward the purple smoke.

One of the many delights of Mason’s book is that it describes the battles for the Ia Drang — the same campaign glamorized in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, the book Gibson filmed. The campaign, which is depicted as a noble, though doomed, strike for freedom in We Were Soldiers…. doesn’t come off so well in Mason’s memoir. In fact, he and his fellow pilots seem to have done something the generals in charge of the operation didn’t do: read the books about earlier French campaigns against the Viet Minh in that same valley. Mason and his drunken buddies end up predicting the failure of the campaign while their superiors are still sending home the sort of communiques which did so much to cement the American Army’s reputation for…er, “emphasizing the positive,” let’s say.

We Were Soldiers Once… And Young

But Mason’s topper, his most brilliant passage, comes at the very end, in the epilogue summarizing his messed-up return to civilian life. Here’s the superb two-paragraph conclusion, describing his next move after the early drafts of his Nam memoir had been rejected and he’d failed in everything he tried since getting back to The World:

“What did the desperate man do? I can tell you that I was arrested in January, 1981, charged with smuggling marijuana into the country. In August 1981, I was found guilty of possession and sentence to five years at a minimum-security prison. I am currently free as of February 1983, appealing the conviction. No one is more shocked than I.”

Just roll that last sentence over on your tongue. “No one is more shocked than I.” Now there is a meal. Even the fussily correct grammar, that annoying “…than I” rather than the colloquial “than me” or “…than I am”; so perfectly droll, such a change from the Nam dialogue in which every other word is “fuckin’ “. And the grand historical irony, that the junked helicopter jock should become desperate enough to sell his one skill to the only people who wanted it, the drug dealers, designated New Enemy of the Reaganites. And the timing! Mason’s manuscript got four rejections in the years leading up to 1981, when the memoirs started appearing. A little later, and he’d've been cool. But that would have been disastrous. To go to prison for piloting a helicopter full of drugs, albeit unworthy boring drugs like marijuana, even as that great war-dodging hypocrite Reagan shoved his leathery grin in front of the flag — ah, It’s a fate better than death.

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REIGNING ‘DOGS

July 4th, 2002 by

MuckdogsREIGNING ‘DOGS
By Slidell Montgomery

Barry Bower is proud of every detail of the Muckdogs. As he was showing the BEAST around Dwyer Stadium in Batavia during a rain delay prior to the scheduled start of last Thursday’s game. Bower, who is Chairman of Batavia Regional Recreation Corporation, spoke of them being a community-owned and operated team. He spoke of the Muckdogs being featured in a Hollywood motion picture last summer, and he also spoke with equal pride of Batavia being–as far as he knew–the third smallest market in professional sports.

Who are the two smaller markets?

Cocking his head over his shoulder towards the visitor’s dugout, Bower said, “Oneonta’s one of them. I don’t know who the other one is.”

The Onenonta single-A Tigers stalked into Batavia last week on a season-opening tear. They were 8-1, had shutout the ‘Dogs the previous night 2-0 and were now waiting for a field-flooding, thunder storm to pass so they could resume their dominance of The Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League.

After the abrupt but brief deluge–one that was accompanied by violent and very nearby electrical activity–moved east, the fans came out from under Rain Delay
Players and fans stuck in ‘Dogs dugout during rain delaythe shelter of the aluminum grandstand and milled around the puddled-over concession area waiting for an announcement that play would begin as soon as the tarp was cleared from the infield.

Over at the visitors bullpen Tiger pitchers skipped stones across the pools of rainwater in right field that would land in the gaps, alleys, and various batting lanes of everywhere from right-center over to straight-away left field. They left their jetsam there to likely be found later by unwitting outfielders.

‘Dogs first baseman Rob Calfiero from Long Island watched from the home team’s bullpen as the grounds crew (which includes the ‘Dogs ubiquitous media/radio guy Jonathan Meyer) tried to unclog drains and find places to push the flood waters.

“The main difference between college ball and playing up here is getting used to wood bats,” said Calfiero, who graduated with a degree in management from Villanova this year. He is being platooned with left-handed hitting first baseman Ryan Barthelemy. Calfiero bats right but says he sees a lot of right-handed pitching. “They don’t platoon us because of pitching. It’s pretty much two games on, two games off.”

At this level, coaches certainly cannot be hiding hitters from challenging situations. Calfiero also said that, more difficult than facing right-handed pitching or the adjustment of switching from the lethally explosive aluminum bats, so pervasive in amateur baseball, to the more pitcher-friendly ash and maple bats of the pros, is the fact that in A-ball “You never get a pitch to hit. You see nothing out over the plate. It’s all in tight (he gestures with both fists as though they are hand-cuffed to his sternum) or way outside. Nothing’s over the plate.”

In this early stage of the season it must seem that way for a few of the ‘Dogs. As a team they are hitting .251. The two first basemen are hitting a combined .200, with 1 HR, 7 RBI, and 17 strikeouts between them in the first 15 games.

On the upside, catcher and Californian Mark McRoberts, back after hitting .350 in 6 games for the ‘Dogs last season, is hitting at a .419 clip so far, with a pair of doubles and a team-leading 3 homers. Shortstop Carlos Rodriguez of Dominican Republic is hitting .339 and leads the squad in both hits (20) and stolen bases (7).

On the mound, Venezuelan Erick Arteaga has given up only 4 runs in 21.2 innings but has yet to gain a decision. Carlos Cabrera, also of Dominican Republic, is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.95.

Playing the rest of their 76-game schedule with only three days off between now and September 4 won’t leave a lot of time for individual instruction. And the road can be tough. Six times over the course of the season the Dogs play a home-and-home series with the Jamestown Jammers where they alternate successive nights at each other’s stadiums, for up to three games. When the ‘Dogs play in Jamestown though they drive back to Batavia after the game.

“We get in about 1 or 2 in the morning,” says Cafiero.

All the players on the Muckdogs are housed with someone from the community to whom the player pays a modest fee from his modest salary.

The ‘Dogs have been on both sides of a three-game streak this year but went into Wednesday night’s game, the last of a five game road trip, against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of Niles, OH (a city near Youngstown), having won four of their last five. They were 8-7 overall and one game back of the Pinckney Division-leading Jammers.

“They’ve got a real nice park down there,” Calfiero said of the Scrappers, “Some guy with a shoe store or factory or something gave them a bunch of money to build a park. It’s right by the mall.” He grinned and said, “At least they’ve got a mall. Here, you have to drive a half-an-hour for,” he paused, searching the infield with his gaze, “for anything.”

About an hour and forty minutes after the scheduled start of the game, the PA announcer declared that the game would be postponed until the next day and played as part of a doubleheader. When asked what the young ‘Dogs would do with their night off, pitching coach Warren Brusstar said, “I don’t know. It’s their first one.” Then he looked out into the storm-traced twilight sky, over the right-center field wall, perhaps remembering a night off from his playing days, and said, “There’s not much to do around here.”

Next night, the ‘Dogs dropped the first game of the doubleheader to Oneonta 6-2 but came back to win the late game 4-3, setting them off on their recent winning campaign.

Upcoming Muckdogs Home Games:

July:
16-18 TUE-THU vs. Mahoning Valley

MON-SAT games begin at 7:05 PM/ SUN games start at 4:05PM. For directions and info visit www.muckdogs.com.

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BARNES BALD SPOT THREATENS CITY SCIENTISTS EXPRESS CONCERN

July 4th, 2002 by

There is probably no more ubiquitous and memorable image in Buffalo than that of the bald head of Steve Barnes, the more solar-reflective half of the famed personal-injury legal duo Cellino and Barnes. Like a satellite orbiting the city, the head is everywhere; perching on billboards above the highways, floating across your television screen with a legal pad in its hand, leaping off the page as you turn the pages of your local newspaper. It’s effective self-salesmanship, no doubt; you only need to be in Buffalo for about 22 hours to know exactly where to go for help once you contract your inevitable case of mesothelioma, or find yourself the victim of a dog bite following an accident involving an asbestos-laden watercraft that rams into your construction site, toppling you from your scaffold onto a malpracticing physician pedestrian. When life deals you a bad hand in Buffalo, fear not: the Head is there to defend you.

But is there enough Hero-Head to go around? The Beast decided to investigate. With little more than a ruler and a copy of our local phone book, we were able to generate a solid estimate of the minimum area of Steve Barnes’s bald spot in Erie County. You can follow along with our math if you like; here’s what we came up with.

Take the Steve Barnes photo in the center spread of the phone book and measure the diameter of Barnes’s bald forehead. Measuring the width of the head at 3.75 cm, and using the calculation ßr2, we can determine, rounding to three places, that the area of the bald spot in this picture is .011 m2.

We called Verizon to ask how many copies of the Yellow Pages were distributed in Erie County this year. They told us that this year’s circulation was 514,251. We multiplied that number by the above bald-spot area number–as well as the areas of the same bald spot on other Cellino and Barnes ads on pages 43, 459, 472, 488, 494, the outside cover, and the flip side of the insert–and, along with a few calculations about total width and height, came up with some interesting results:

DID YOU KNOW?

To date, the total area of the Steve Barnes bald spot is 2152 square meters. While this is smaller area than some notably large areas, it is still MUCH LARGER than an NBA basketball court!

barnes1.jpg

DID YOU KNOW?barnes2.jpg

If you laid out all the Steve Barnes bald heads in all the Erie County phone books end to end, they would stretch an incredible 88.194 kilometers–more than enough to reach from one end of Manhattan Island to the other AND BACK!

DID YOU KNOW?barnes3.jpg

If Cellino and Barnes place the same ads in the yellow pages next year, that will mean the Barnes bald spot will be growing at a faster rate than the hole in the ozone layer!

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A BEAST BY ANY OTHER NAME

July 4th, 2002 by

A BEAST BY ANY OTHER NAME

If this letter to the Artvoice editor seemed unbelievable to you, that’s because it was. We wrote it. Seems some folks believe there really are people out there who would vote for Jamie Moses for Mayor. Anyway, check it out: “Mnyama” means “Beast” in Swahili…

avletter.jpg

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Dressing the Part

June 21st, 2002 by

Dressing the PartWide Right
by James R. Miller

One of the oft-overlooked keys to success in any field of endeavor is dressing the part of the winner. It is a sad but true reflection on the superficiality of much of human interaction that the competitor who has the look of a champion will often be treated like one–even if he lacks the accompanying abilities that make a true champion. By the same token, the competitor with a losing appearance will be treated with less respect by his fellow competitors, a situation with the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

With that in mind, it is at the very least heartening that the Buffalo Bills have chosen to introduce new uniforms at this time. The old uniforms had come to be associated not with the four straight trips to the Super Bowl back in the franchise’s glory years, but rather with the four straight losses in those games–and even worse, with the team’s gradual decline thereafter into the lower realms of the NFL power structures.

As was hinted in last issue’s column, the arrival here in Buffalo of a rejuvenated Drew Bledsoe at quarterback makes this an opportune time to change other aspects of the team’s fortunes, and the uniforms would certainly fall into that category. Of course, with the NFL’s strict guidelines, the new uniforms were in the works long before the Bledsoe trade was even a dot on the radar. Even so, the timing must be viewed as a fortuitous coincidence: an extremely successful off-season (not only owing to the Bledsoe trade) has given the team the renewed confidence of a winner. The right uniforms could possibly give them the confidence of a champion.

But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves here. Note that I said “right” uniforms. For if history has taught us anything, there is a right and wrong way to change. Whereas the freewheeling liberal changes haphazardly, often simply following whatever is the latest fad, the pragmatic conservative changes naturally–that is, gradually and logically, in just the same way that our planet and all life upon it have been evolving over these many eons.

It is this self-evident knowledge that causes me some degree of concern when I consider the Bills’ new uniforms. On the one hand, the new home uniforms do seem to reflect the sensible path of pragmatic conservative change referred to above. The overall look remains the same, with the changes being subtle ones that have a sound logical basis (such as the more fearsome deep blue color chosen for the jerseys’ primary color). Overall, they recall the past without dwelling unnecessarily on it and seem to represent a more efficient and modern costume suited to performing on the modern field of battle.

The same cannot be said, however, of the new away uniforms, which it pains me to say reflect a certain base element of pandering to the latest fads. As has been much commented on in the media, these new uniforms are reminiscent of the Tennessee Titans’ uniforms, the team from which Head Coach Gregg Williams arrived here in Buffalo. Coach Williams achieved a great deal as a coordinator in Nashville, they say, so it is only natural that he should wish to bring certain elements of that winning tradition with him here.

But what I have not heard commented on is the fact that the Titans’ championship run two years ago came up just a bit short. In fact, just like the Bills back in the their first Super Bowl, Tennessee came up just a yard short (a yard right in the Bills’ case, of course) on the game’s final play against the NFC opponent.

It is a universally held view in the world of business–and indeed, in all competitive fields–that when copying one’s competitors, one should emulate those who have achieved the greatest successes. Thus, it does concern me somewhat that the Bills appear to be following in the footsteps of a team whose near-triumph mirrors its own. Furthermore, the Titans’ decline following that Super Bowl heartbreak has been far more swift than the Bills’ a decade earlier. Thus, as the season approaches, we should take pains to remain rational and not succumb to overly optimistic giddiness.

But that does not mean that we cannot still revel somewhat in what is certainly an exciting time in Buffalo sports history. After all, it is not as if we are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. Unlike that woeful franchise, ours is a team that–despite its many setbacks–I believe still possesses the heart of a champion.

Soccer: The “Other” Football?

What with the mild case of soccer fever that is now sweeping the country in conjunction with the American team’s unprecedented success in the current World Cup tournament, I think this would be a good time to say a few words about that piteous sport that dares to share a name throughout much of the world with our beloved American game.

Why, even some of my self-proclaimed “conservative” colleagues have of late taken an inappropriate interest in soccer. In their defense, they argue that it makes good conservative sense for a dedicated football fan to learn to enjoy the game from which our American football derived. This is pure nonsense, of course. Far from representing a conservative approach, this fashionable obsession with soccer stinks of the worst kind of reactionaryism. And certainly the tumultuous events of the 20th century have clearly demonstrated the hell to which that kind of reactionary mindset leads. Those who now find themselves indulging their atavistic interest in a game forbidding the use of the hands would do just as well to cease walking upright and return to the miserable level of dumb beasts.

The civilized majority, on the other hand, will be attending to personal matters and waiting patiently for that glorious day when the football season begins anew.

Born and raised in Hamburg, James R. Miller is currently completing post-doctoral work at London School of Economics.

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SPORTS DESK

June 21st, 2002 by

SPORTS DESK

Sports Crimewatch
June just wouldn’t be June without a Sebastian Janikowski DUI incident, and this year was no different. After his disastrous foray into the world of GHB and unwilling dates, the Foul Pole decided to go back to the bread and butter pleasures of vodka mixed with German performance cars and immediately hit paydirt.
Wide Right
One of the oft-overlooked keys to success in any field of endeavor is dressing the part of the winner. It is a sad but true reflection on the superficiality of much of human interaction that the competitor who has the look of a champion will often be treated like one—even if he lacks the accompanying abilities that make a true champion. By the same token, the competitor with a losing appearance will be treated with less respect by his fellow competitors, a situation with the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
Baseball Like It Oughta Be
The BEAST will be keeping a full-season diary throughout the summer of the Batavia Muckdogs, a single-A farm club in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Forget the big leagues. Forget the upcoming strike. This is sports the way it should be. 
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SIZE IS IMPORTANT

June 21st, 2002 by

SIZE IS IMPORTANT

Dear [sic],
My name is Elizabeth Lavis, graduate of St. Bonaventure University (class 2001). I majored in Journalism/Mass Communication and minored in Political Science. I was the Associate Editor of the Buffalo Gazette for about 8 months after college and have free-lanced in various newspapers/magazines in Buffalo and the surrounding area. Basically I am looking for more experience in my field and would be interested in doing writing, editing and layout for your publication. I would be happy to submit a resume detailing my experience if needed. Additionally, I would be happy to meet in person to discuss the possibility of working for your publication.

Elizabeth Lavis

Dear Elizabeth,
Send a photo of your college-educated snapper to sic@buffalobeast.com. Jpegs are best. Pay close attention to lighting and pixel size. Thank you.

 

NO, HE IS AN ARTIST

Dear Beast,
The Bar-Dak key couldn’t be more accurate. The only jeer I have is that you blocked out the bar revue under Liar’s and Queen City lounge….. and I am sure those revues were as funny as the rest. If your going to block the revue atleast block it with something good to look at, like a nice set of breasts, not an asshole.

Blizak Jizak

Dear Blizak,
Tom Sartori isn’t an asshole. He’s Buffalo’s best solo artist, two years running. Don’t you read the newspapers?

 

SEE DICK WRITE

Hey,
nice start guys, all of you are just what we need, hang in there and as soon as I get organized I am at your service.

Steve, or “Dick” (my alter ego)

Dear Dick or Steve,
Whose service do we get once you’re organized? Dick’s, or Steve’s? Whoever we get, we’ll take him! U sound like R kind of guy! Not that we don’t appreciate it, but can’t a guy get some decent hate mail in this town? What do we have to do, fuck an altar boy in a confessional? Oh, wait–that gig’s taken!

 

WHITE WOMEN DIG US

Dear Beast.
I read your publication for the first time last night. I thought I was the only one who: did not deify Jamie Moses, continues to be appalled at the decimation of the incredibly priceless waterfront of a “great lake” by a highway (wouldn’t it be nice if city children could actually swim in the lake?), at the ( Hannah Arendt defined evil as “a lack of imagination”) lunar landscape designed to inhibit human interaction of the so-called North Campus, believes that The Mohawk and The Pink are the only bars in Buffalo with soul (I’m regrettably not familiar with east side establishments, being a white woman of a certain age), can’t bear the ineptitude of the old boy’s club of the Masiello administration, etc. Having come to regard myself as a hopelessly misanthropic cynic prone to choosing books over company I was so gratified to read your paper.

But I love Buffalo. Tried living in the northwest. Seattle is way too mellow, and the northeast, there are hardly any native Vermonters left, having been dispossessed by wealthy Bostonians. I came back. I love the people here. We know we’re screwed and there’s some sort of psychoanalytically complex reason why we enjoy it. Being Irish Catholic helps me approximate understanding and tolerance of the Buffalo psyche. One thing is for sure. It is perverse, and certain cultures thrive on perversity. Anyway, welcome, truly welcome to the fray.

sh

Dear sh,
Boing-g-g! We’ve got major wood! You could house a pack of Sherpas in this tent! Mount Everest, here we come!

 

OUR ASSHOLES ARE BETTER THAN YOURS

Hey, [sic],
Holy jesus mother of god, you bastards are fucking hilarious. You MUST do a prank about the Sabres…the entire goddamn town is scared shitless that the team will be leaving town now that the Rigases have fucked Adelphia dry, so the timing would be perfect. In addition, the prank would play perfectly into Buffalonians’ need for paranoia as well as self-pity. Oh, please, I implore you…fuck with these people some more. Buffalo’s a great town filled with provincial assholes (as I can see you’re already finding), so any more pranks that play on those traits would be most welcomed.

A pseudo-realistic prank that would have the Sabres moving to Rochester, Toronto, or even to Darien Lake would be believed here (these fucks really are paranoid…you have a lot of material to play with). You could maybe play the parts of the potential ownership team. Make up some fake rich assholes and borrow some decent suits (you fucking slackers). It would be grand. I don’t know why you sent us this rag of yours, but I love it. Keep it coming, and if you guys ever need any help, any help at all, I would wipe your asses and sweep your floors without pay for the chance to work with a bunch of spiteful, bitter dickheads like you!

Lovingly,
Fabio Escobar, Amherst

Dear Fabio,
We’re working on a Sabres prank, believe us, but the problem is, the team itself is setting comedy standards that we’re frankly intimidated by. Thank God for the Bills, huh? Go Drew!

One thing, though. Is a provincial asshole worse than a Manhattan asshole? We don’t think so. We’ll take Buffalo’s assholes any day of the week. Assholes in this town talk about hockey. Assholes in New York talk about their book deals. It’s no contest. Buffalo has the best assholes in America!

 

ANAIS NINCOMPOOP

To the Editors, I’m writing to ask if you’d be interested in running a parody piece (“France Inaugurates First ‘Museum of Collaboration’). I could provide (bogus) photographs, etc. along with the copy. Needless to say, I’m not asking for any compensation: it’s the internet, after all.

Sincerely,
Alma Marceau
Author of “Lofting,” a novel: wit; urbanity; filth.
http://www.studioloplop.com/

Dear Alma,
We admit it; we’re impressed. You actually had us going for a while. Your resume, posted on the web, was a masterpiece of bullshit: nobody, we thought, could be this funny. A modern-day wannabe Anais Nin, authoress of what reviewers call “erudite erotic literature” (one reviewer even apparently called you the “Melville of the money shot”), who in her youth studied at a series of improbable, nonexistent academic institutions, each of which challenged our mental archive of pretentious literary allusions more than the last… Seriously, high school at the “Errico Malatesta Preparatory Academy” in Salt Lake City, Utah? Doctoral study in “fungal systematics” at “Svevo University, Trieste?” A Ph.D. thesis entitled “”On the Genealogy of Morels: The Evolution and Classification of the Ascomycetes, with Special Attention to the Genus Morchella?” Are you shitting us? Post-graduate work at the “Institute of Fern Relations” in Berne? Get outta here, you nut!

Then there’s your actual erotic literary work, which you describe in an interview with yourself [!] from your “compound” in Costa Rica:

“I think that plausibility in erotica depends on the same sorts of things that impart plausibility to any other sort of story. Are the characters consistent in action? (I mean, unless experiencing a psychotic break or under duress.) Is there continuity to their logic of ratiocination? Do their emotional reactions jibe with their personalities? What I want from erotica isn’t a Freudian analysis of causation, but a story that unfolds in believable ways, that’s populated by human beings whose ways of being in the world are recognizable to me.”

Your book, “Lofting,” appears to be on sale on amazon.com, which means that someone is buying all of this at face value. If your whole personality is a joke–and we’re pretty sure that, far from being a sinewy Euro sex-goddess, you’re really a frustrated fat male professor in some place like Cleveland–then you’re a genius, and we salute you.

Unfortunately, no one in Buffalo would give a shit about a parody of a “French Collaboration museum.” Even we wouldn’t. Write something about the Bills, and we’ll take it. We’re in America now–why do you think we left Europe in the first place?

However, if this is not a joke, and you’re really who you say you are, you make us sick; fuck off. As for your article, try “the Onion.” They ran out of material four years ago.

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ATTENTION GENERAL POWELL!

June 21st, 2002 by

ATTENTION GENERAL POWELL!

Colin Powell

Last week, Artvoice publisher Jamie Moses sent a letter to General Colin Powell to “warn” him about the BEAST. Concerned that he may not have gotten a response, we decided to call up the Department of State in Washington (202-647-4000) on his behalf:

 

DOS:   Department of State.

BEAST:   This is Jamie Moses from Artvoice in Buffalo. I sent the Secretary of State a letter last week, and I wanted to know if he’d gotten a chance to respond to it.

DOS:   I’d have to give you the Public Affairs line…

BEAST:   They already told me that they can’t help me. I’m a little concerned. I sent him this letter about these people who write for the Nation, and are part of the ACLU, and he doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, and I wanted to know when he could respond to it.

DOS:   Uh…Okay, is it dealing with overseas issues and countries, sir?

BEAST:   Well, not exactly, it’s dealing with my competitor in Buffalo. They’re a small new newspaper, they have a circulation of about 10,000, and I think it’s an urgent issue…

DOS:   (baffled) Are you calling the U.S. Department of State, or your state State Department?

BEAST:   The U.S. Department of State. Colin Powell.

DOS:   Well, he wouldn’t have anything to do with that, sir!

BEAST:   Why not?

DOS:   But that’s in your state!

BEAST:   But these people write for the Nation! They’re part of the ACLU!

DOS:   No, but we deal with overseas issues and countries!

BEAST:   Exactly!

DOS:   Uh… well, uh, Public Affairs will have to help you, sir.

BEAST:   (bitterly) Thanks.

DOS:   Yeah. Thank you.

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