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Protesting the unkindest cuts: Michael Kink of Housing Works. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen.

It Could Be Worse

Gay and lesbian advocates who endorsed Pataki gamely defend his proposed cuts to gay and lesbian services

After being endorsed by the New York’s largest gay and lesbian advocacy group in last year’s election, Gov. George E. Pataki began his third term proposing, in his 2003-2004 executive budget, reduced funding for gay and lesbian health and human services and HIV/AIDS programs.

Pataki’s budget calls for reduced funding for gay and lesbian health and human services throughout the state by approximately $1.5 million, or 60 percent—but representatives from gay and lesbian advocacy group Empire State Pride Agenda said matters could be worse.

Sheila Healy is the director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, which coordinates a network of approximately 50 gay and lesbian health and human service organizations across the state. Healy said in light of the state’s $12 billion budget deficit, retaining funding for these programs at all shows Pataki’s commitment to the state’s gay and lesbian communities.

“This year the governor put less in, which reflects the budget reality,” said Healy. “We were glad to see that he recognized the needs to keep [the funding] in there at all.”

According to Joe Tarver, spokesman for ESPA, which endorsed Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign last year, the $1 million the governor marked for gay and lesbian services funds substance-abuse, youth and senior-service programs for the gay and lesbian community. According to Tarver, the programs were important for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community because gays and lesbians run the programs.

“These services are currently provided by mainstream providers,” Tarver said. “But for some members of the LGBT community, the reason they drink is because they are LGBT, and some providers have more sensitivity for these issues.”

But Michael Kink, legislative counsel for HIV/AIDS service advocacy group Housing Works, said ESPA is trying to make the best of a bad situation.

“I think that ESPA endorsed Gov. Pataki for reelection,” said Kink, “and from an interest-group perspective they want to show that they got something for that, that the governor is looking out for them.”

Kink said the $1.2 billion reduction the governor proposed to the state’s Medicaid program will affect low-income members of the gay and lesbian community living with HIV and AIDS.

“The governor has not hesitated to cut Medicaid, which is the biggest single source of HIV and AIDS care in our state,” Kink said. “This funding is of crucial importance to thousands of poor gays and lesbians living with AIDS.”

Further, Kink said Pataki’s proposed $12.2 million in cuts to existing HIV and AIDS programs will be felt beyond the gay and lesbian community.

“I can’t say he is entirely heartless,” Kink said, “but I can say that his budget is not realistic about what it takes to keep the fight against AIDS strong. These cuts to the basic infrastructure of HIV/AIDS services providers, cuts in money that they get right now to keep their doors open.”

For example, Kink said, Pataki’s budget proposal eliminates $4.8 million that went last year to fight HIV/AIDS in communities of color. Kink said this funding is important considering that eight out of every 10 cases of HIV or AIDS occur in communities of color.

“People of color are a vast majority of the epidemic,” Kink said. “Historically the resources to respond to that have always been available in there in communities of color. This money was designed to go to more indigenous groups for self-education and self-defense efforts by members of black and Latino communities.”

Representatives from Pataki’s budget office claimed that overall, the governor has increased spending for HIV/AIDS programs, providing more than $2.6 billion from all sources for AIDS and AIDS-related programs.

“The only cuts that were made were prior-year legislative additions,” said Andrew Rush, Pataki budget spokesman. “[These were] one-time funding sources from each [legislative] house as they put together their budgets. [These cuts] are looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

But Kink said Pataki’s decision to fill the state’s deficit by trimming health and human services before closing tax loopholes on corporations who make money in New York but pay no state tax is unacceptable.

“When we’re talking about $2 billion in medical cuts, it overshadows a million-
dollar program here or there,” Kink said. “That is not to say that we don’t appreciate the governor holding back the axe where he has, but you’ve got to be real clear-eyed about what happened and what didn’t

—Travis Durfee

How to Lose an Ally in 10 Days

Will Bush’s intransigence on war hasten a disintegration of NATO?

The Bush administration’s headlong rush to war threatens to undo the intricate system of international alliances that have formed the basis of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. The latest example of this dramatic erosion is the growing transatlantic rift between the United States and its allies, France, Germany and Belgium, which represent the very core of Western Europe. France and Belgium recently voted to deny Turkey’s request for NATO arms to defend itself against a possible Iraqi attack. Media mouthpieces for administration hawks, such as the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, are already claiming that the veto has put the Atlantic Alliance’s future in jeopardy.

Echoing Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld’s description of the veto as “truly shameful,” the Journal wrote, “If this is what the U.S. gets from NATO, maybe it’s time Americans considered leaving this Cold War institution and re-forming an alliance of nations that understands the new threats to the world order.”

The strains brought on by the Bush administration’s unrelenting desire to invade Iraq are not limited to NATO. Serious questions are also being raised about long-standing alliances in other parts of the world. Last weekend, for example, The New York Times reported that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and his closest advisers are planning to undo their military ties with the United States. It is one of a series of measures designed to shore up the ruling family’s political support within the Saudi kingdom. The military disengagement, which was first rumored (but strongly denied) in late 2001, is to be implemented after the current crisis in Iraq is resolved one way or another. According to the Times, Saudi sources say that a U.S. withdrawal from the kingdom would give its rulers more room to institute reforms, but without appearing to be doing so at Washington’s behest.

Meanwhile, the standoff with North Korea is eroding the traditionally close U.S. relationship with Seoul. And in yet another unexpected development, Rumsfeld reportedly has informed Seoul that the U.S. military is prepared to gradually withdraw the 37,000 troops based in South Korea. The soldiers will first move back from current positions close to the demilitarized zone, where they are intended to act as a “tripwire” in the event of a North Korean invasion, and will then leave the peninsula altogether.

The administration claims that its offer was prompted by perceived South Korean displeasure at Washington for failing to promote detente with Pyongyang. In the words of one official, “We don’t go where we’re not wanted.” But some experts say the move is designed to “raise the stakes” for incoming President Roh Moo-hyun, whose softer line toward Pyongyang has irritated administration hawks.

“It’s a no-lose proposition,” noted one hawkish Congressional staffer. “If we get our troops out of range of the North’s guns, our freedom of action for acting against the North is greater. And if Roh gets worried about being left to the tender mercies of (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il, that gives us more influence.”

The latest flurry of diplomatic moves and countermoves by the United States and its longtime allies is also prompting growing concern about the current crisis’ long-term strategic consequences for the U.N. Security Council. Washington is expected to seek a second resolution authorizing, or at least condoning, a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq after the inspection teams headed by Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei file their next report on Friday. The Russian delegates, who met with French President Jacques Chirac on Monday, appear to be rallying behind a Franco-German proposal. The initiative will double or even triple the number of U.N. inspectors in Iraq and constitute a 1,000-man U.N. peacekeeping force to back them up on the ground. China, which like Russia and France has a veto on the Security Council, is also expected to back the proposal if it is put forward on Friday.

In appearances on Sunday television talk-shows, top U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed the initiative as “useless.” The United States instead wants the Security Council to authorize the use of force if Iraq refuses to surrender the vital information that Washington claims is being hidden by Saddam Hussein. Adding to the diplomatic storm gathering over the weekend, Rumsfeld complained bitterly about the French-Belgian veto and the refusal of his German counterpart to share details of the Franco-German proposal—which was disclosed by Der Spiegel magazine—to beef up the inspection teams.

Relations between Western Europeans and Washington appear to have reached their lowest point in a very long time. The downward trend was evident before the conference in Munich. Rumsfeld’s description of Germany and France as the “old Europe,” as well as the open letter calling for greater unity—solicited and then published by the Pentagon’s friends at The Journal, and signed by the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Poland and several other East European nations—clearly irritated the continent’s two most important powers.

“The road to Iraqi disarmament has produced the gravest crisis in the Atlantic alliance since its creation five decades ago,” wrote former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Washington Post on Monday. He compared the
Franco-German opposition to Washington’s call for war to the successful ultimatum issued by Eisenhower administration to Britain and France, asking them to withdraw after they and the Israelis seized the Suez Canal in 1956.

“I think what’s going on in NATO is a reflection of the deeper rift that is taking place between mainstream Europe and the U.S.,” said Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The Bush administration believes that it can simply ram its designs on Iraq down the throats of its smaller European allies, and it’s finding out that that’s simply not the case.” The administration appears to believe that “as long as we assert our primacy without hesitation, others will eventually get in line, but they’re finding out that if they in fact do so, others will lock arms to resist a wayward America,” added Kupchan.

Kupchan’s recent book, The End of the American Era, predicted a split between the United States and Europe. “What I am amazed about is the speed with which these events are taking place,” he said. “The Bush administration has put history into fast forward.”

—Jim Lobe

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