Friday, January 26, 2007

What price silence?

Tomorrow morning before dawn, three busloads of people from the North Fork will depart Riverhead for Washington, D.C. to attend a march for peace. I will be one of them.

The trip from the North Fork is being organized by North Fork People of Conscience. The group has been surprised by the response. Originally planning one bus, they hired a second when the first filled up in just a day. Now they've got three going.

People from every state in the union will be attending the rally and march, whose purpose is to send a message to Congress that American involvement in the war in Iraq must end.

It's been a very long time since I participated in any kind of a demonstration. The last time was, I think, at the U.N., in the early 1980s. I feel foolish to admit that I can't quite remember what it was about. El Salvador, I think. The debacle in the Middle East has inspired me. What a terrible mess. With no easy solutions. Perhaps no solutions at all. It's really very depressing. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost, a country in ruins, America disgraced. Our troops being used as pawns, not only in military warfare in an Iraqi civil war, but in political warfare at home. But, boy, does this sound familiar, as I'm old enough to remember Vietnam. Such a similar scenario. Except this one is actually far more dangerous, because of the powder keg that is the Middle East, and the potential for mass destruction.

Another 20,000 troops? Is that the answer? Not likely. As one of al-Qaeda's top commanders said this week, echoing the arrogant bravado of our own leader a few years back, "bring 'em on." He said we could send the whole army. It wouldn't matter. I think we should heed his warning. There are millions of people there who hate each other, but hate America even more. There is no "winning" this war. Bush, like Nixon decades ago, is casting "victory" as a matter of "honor," characterizing "supporting our troops" as supporting his war, painting people opposition to his war as unpatriotic.

Will this march accomplish anything? Who knows? But I feel compelled to attend, to stand up and join the chorus of Americans in protesting this administration's failed foreign policy and disastrous military initiatives in the Middle East. I can't, in good conscience, remain silent.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Looking forward to our day in court

Well, after much fanfare — press releases flying around for more than 10 days — I was finally served with a summons and complaint from Mike Cholowsky late on Friday afternoon.

In the complaint, he says the statement in our story that he pled guilty to a conspiracy to defraud the United States is "completely false. Mr. Cholowsky never pled guilty nor was convicted of any felony involving an attempt to defraud the United States." Well the criminal docket in US. v. Cholowsky shows otherwise. He also labels "completely false" the statement that federal investigators charged Cholowsky's buddy, Joe Provenzano, with using Cholowsky's hauling permit to illegally dump hazardous waste in the Brookhaven landfill. Well, the federal indictment against Joe Provenzano says just that. And Provenzano, by the way, pled guilty to all 17 counts in that indictment. Then the complaint calls "false" the statement that Cholowsky "testified in 1999 that he paid bribes totalling $20,000 to Republican party leader John Powell for the right to dump at the town landfill in Yaphank." Well, the transcript of Cholowsky's testimony in mid-November 1999 at the criminal trial of John Powell says exactly that. And besides, Newsday reported all of these facts (numerous times) in its coverage of the Powell trial in 1999. Did Cholowsky sue Newsday?

Then the complaint accuses us of recklessness, malice and intent to harm, and claims damages of $2 million. It also seeks $10 million in punitive damages.

The complaint is "verified" not by the plaintiff, but by his attorney. Somebody's got to swear to the court that the allegations in the complaint are true, you know.

I can hardly wait to have this matter before a judge, so the plaintiff and his attorney can both explain how they can file a document with the court containing statements which so clearly controvert the public record.

If this isn't an attempt to shut me up, I don't know what is. But it isn't going to work. And our attorneys have been instructed to prepare a counterclaim alleging violation of our right to report this matter, as protected by Article 7 of the New York State Civil Rights Law. We will seek remedies to the fullest extent allowed by law, because this sort of action, known as a "SLAPP" suit, goes to the very heart of the role and function of the press in a free society. And we won't take that lying down.