Friday, February 29, 2008


GDA be meeting Sunday, March 2nd, 2:00 P.M., at the Department of Public Works building on 645 Pine Street in Burlington. Get involved with Burlington's new pro-active political green-machine! GO/LOOK: Agenda.


Maurice Mahoney's My Turn on the Moran plant advisory referendum item #1 appears in todays Burlington Free Press.
My Turn: Moran plant not best use of money

By Maurice Mahoney

February 29, 2008
As the Free Press pointed out ("Moran plant deserves discussion," Feb. 6), Burlington voters will get a clear choice on the Moran plant on March 4.

The new Community and Economic Development Office proposal backed by Mayor Kiss calls for a $21 million expenditure with a very fuzzy financial plan. The ballot item to remove the Moran plant was never considered by City Hall, even though CEDO's own voter survey showed that 86 percent favored a waterfront park and 55 percent favored removal of Moran. The ballot item for Smart Demolition had to be petitioned by dedicated volunteers who wanted the public to have a choice.

It seems like only yesterday that about two-thirds of Burlington voters said "No" to the YMCA/Moran proposal. CEDO and the mayor must have missed that message. Now we have another, much more expensive plan and softer sell propaganda, which is deliberately meager on the financial package. Voters will be bombarded with colorful, cute and expensive advertising to get you to vote yes. You will not get the important details that you need.

The ballot item does not even mention the $21 million cost. Did City Hall think that people wouldn't care about the cost? How many people know that the "tax benefits" that have been touted are not going to increase available funds for fire equipment or sidewalks the rest of the city, but the money goes into a Tax Incremental Finance District for the project? The revenue from Moran goes back into Moran. How many people know that the tenants get a five-year deferral of rent? How many people know that a two-level parking garage is part of the plan? The pictures on the ads won't show that structure. How much money has CEDO already spent in staff hours and hard dollars on this latest scheme?

At this point, there is no fallback plan for city taxpayers. If the Ice Factor could not meet its financial obligation and had to leave, Burlington would be left with the empty Ice Factor space. That is a gamble we cannot afford.

The Sailing Center is a wonderful organization that provides great activities and needs to be on the waterfront. They could utilize a much more modest building shared with Parks and Recreation which would have summer and winter activities.

The children's museum is an attractive idea. In the early 1990s, when I was on the City Council Waterfront Committee, we worked hard to try to get a children's museum in the Moran plant, but the funding fell through. Since then we are fortunate to have the ECHO Center, which has increasingly had to rent space for special events to help its revenues. Another children's museum on the waterfront seems like a duplication of functions very close to each other.

Many parents are wondering why a new children's play space couldn't be closer to downtown or the Old North End so more Burlington residents could enjoy it with easy access. Indeed, all of the money and attention and energy given to the Moran plant could be redirected toward our children's library and our wonderful school programs, especially after school activities. The same attention could be given to the Armory Project in the New North End, which is facing a large private fundraising effort to reach completion.

We don't need a $21 million super project to fix the bike path near Moran. That should not have been allowed to deteriorate, but money is tight.

We are facing huge infrastructure needs like improved stormwater separation, basic maintenance of public buildings, and of course, the crisis in our Employee Retirement Fund. Please find out as much as you can on this project. I think that your conclusion will be to vote no on the $21 million Moran plan.

Maurice Mahoney of Burlington is a member of Citizens for Waterfront Park.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


The VIA Westlake Action earlier this month was not covered by the Free Press. Nearly 300 people of faith gathered at St Paul's Cathedral to address the affordable housing segment of that development on Battery Street, to ask the Mayor and CEDO to re-commit to affordable housing and make sure the Westlake debacle would never be repeated. The mayor's answers to the gathering were very disappointing: he would not commit. VIA sent out press releases about the Action, so the Free Press knew about it, but did not send anyone to cover it. Why should they? Because the research done by VIA leaders on the chronology of the Westlake development with the DRB was indeed scathing in its scope. Just what the Mayor and CEDO would not need, as they try to convince the voters to approve ballot item #1.

Ken Picard has done a particularly good piece today about the Westlake developer's paltry payment of $400 K to the city's housing fund. It's not nearly enough. When the City Council voted last week to allow Westlake to pay that amount, I am pleased that three city councilors voted against it: Joan Shannon, Ed Adrian and Andy Montroll.

Battery Street Developer to Pay City $400K in Lieu of Affordable Housing

Local Matters
By Ken Picard [02.27.08]

A Battery Street developer has agreed to pay nearly a half-million dollars into the city’s Housing Trust Fund rather than meet a mandate to build affordable housing units near the Burlington Waterfront. The agreement, approved by the Burlington City Council last week, ends months of extensive negotiations with the developer and helps the city avoid potentially lengthy and costly litigation. The deal also frees up the property, at Battery and Cherry streets, for future development.

The so-called Lofts Building was supposed to be the last phase of the four-part Westlake Development Project, which also included the Westlake luxury condominiums [1], the Courtyard Marriott [2] and a public parking garage. The first three phases of the project have already been completed.

The fourth phase was proposed as three floors of commercial real estate and 13 residential units, of which seven were to be set aside for low- and moderate-income residents. In 2006, the permit was amended to eliminate one floor of commercial property and replace it with eight more residential units. In exchange for building housing in the downtown area, the developer, Westlake Residential Partnership, was given permission to add 20 feet to the height of the hotel and apartments.

Last summer, however, Westlake notified the city that it had run into some legal and technical snafus that prohibited it from completing the project as proposed. To date, no affordable units have been built on any of the properties.

David Scheuer, a partner with Westlake, was out of town this week and couldn’t be reached for comment. Burlington City Attorney Ken Schatz said that, from the city’s standpoint, Westlake was primarily an economic development project, not an affordable housing development. To date, it’s contributed about $120,000 per year in gross receipts taxes, not including city property taxes.

“While we’re still frustrated by the fact that the Lofts Building wasn’t built, from our perspective [this agreement] makes the best of a bad situation,” Schatz says.

Under Burlington ordinance, builders must include a certain percentage of affordable or “inclusionary” housing units in all residential projects, or else pay into the city’s housing trust fund, which can only be used to build more housing for low- to moderate-income residents. To date, in-lieu cash payments to the city are extremely rare, in part because it’s usually cheaper for developers to build apartments than fork over the cash.

The Westlake project was approved under Burlington’s old zoning ordinance, which didn’t specify the amount of in-lieu payments. Under the city’s newly adopted ordinance, builders must now pay $100,000 for every affordable housing unit they’re required to build, but don’t. According to Schatz, the Westlake developer will pay about $41,000 for each inclusionary unit that wasn’t built.

Debbie Ingram, executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action [3], a coalition of religious groups that advocate for more affordable housing options, says that although citizens got “short shrift” on this project, she hopes the city learned a valuable lesson. While she recognizes that the new zoning ordinance will help address the problem somewhat, “We feel that we still need to be vigilant. The laws won’t take care of it automatically.”

One possibility, Ingram suggests, is that the city require future developers to post a bond guaranteeing construction of required affordable housing, a suggestion the city is now considering, according to Brian Pine in the city’s Community and Economic Development Office.

Westlake’s settlement agreement is headed to the Development Review Board for final approval.


Hal Cochran has written a short, erudite, spot on My Turn for todays Burlington Free Press. My emphasize in bold, reflecting my on-going environmental concerns about the mayor's plan.
My Turn: Prevent a mistake by the lake
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2008 Burlington Free Press
By Hal Cochran

Three years ago, Burlington voters told our politicians we didn't want the YMCA housed in the Moran plant. Two years ago, we told them to tear it down. Eighty-six percent of the voters wanted a park on the site.

The politicians evidently don't care what we think. This time around, they want to spend $7.4 million of our money -- just for starters -- to turn the Moran Monstrosity into an amusement park for tourists, with yet another restaurant, yet another parking garage, more and wider roads, and traffic jams. What do we get out of this, besides the bill? Some low-wage service jobs, most of which will be filled by college students? If an entrepreneur wants to put an ice-climbing wall and a restaurant and a parking garage anywhere else in Burlington, fine, but please, not on the shore of Lake Champlain.

Burlington's lakefront is fundamentally different from all other property in the city. It is our most beautiful, desirable, and valuable asset. By law, the parcel the Moran plant sits on is held in trust for the benefit of the public, not for the benefit of tourists, hotels, restaurants, retail shops, or Scottish corporations. Until a higher and better public use is found for it, the land should be returned to and preserved in its natural state.

The Moran plant is irredeemably ugly and should be razed to the ground. The site should not be developed but undeveloped to create a four-season public park with unobstructed lake views. There could be lawns, gardens, trees, picnic tables, a playground, paths that would serve as cross-country ski trails in winter, and a children's wading pool that would convert to an outdoor ice skating rink. A year-round, city-owned concession stand could serve users of both the park and the adjacent bike path. There would be no roads, vehicle traffic, or parking lots, since the free College Street shuttle could turn around at the park entrance. We could call it People's Park. In the name of progress and economic development, the politicians want to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot."

Thanks to the people who petitioned Issue 2 onto the March 4 ballot, we have the opportunity to send the mayor and council a clear and unambiguous message. Please vote no on Issue 1 and yes on Issue 2.

Hal Cochran lives in Burlington.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


It's about time. -

San Jose, Calif. - The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to formally oppose a lifetime ban on gay male blood donors. The board did not go as far as San Jose State University's policy banning blood drives, because they say they ultimately want to increase the local supply of blood and blood donations.
Last year, the Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks called on the FDA to reverse the lifetime ban, citing the fact that in most parts of the country, blood supplies are running critically low. Most of the donated blood we use here in the bay area comes from the midwest – it is, therefore, very expensive. All the donated blood, regardless of its source, undergoes thorough testing for everything from anemia to HIV but the FDA’s rules are still being applied to blood bank operations across the country.

Read AABB's joint statement on "behavior-based blood donor deferrals." [I love these euphemisms.]
AABB, ABC and ARC believe that the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted and recommend that deferral criteria be modified and made comparable with criteria for other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections. Presenting blood donors judged to be at risk of exposure via heterosexual routes are deferred for one year while men who have had sex with another man even once since 1977 are permanently deferred.
I was deferred permanently due to Hepatitis B core antibody blood screening back in the late 1980's - one pint short of becoming a two gallon blood donor. If that were not the case, I'd still be permanently deferred because of my "behaviour." What do you all think of our local board of health introducing a (albeit symbolic) recommendation to the Burlington City Council in solidarity with the Santa Clara board? I know there have been concerns expressed on the UVM campus regarding these donor deferrals. I try to keep up on blood donor news and issues; I was not aware of the AABB/ARC recommendations a few years ago.


"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I will sock you in your goddam face, and you will stay plastered." (to Gore Vidal).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Princess Máxima in support of LBGT rights

Pretty in pink? Or, doing away with stereotypes, how about orange? Many heterosex people in The Netherlands find it a non-issue. However, next week (on 5 March) HRH Princess Máxima of The Netherlands will attend the signing of the agreement on lesbian/gay emancipation/awareness policies. According to the RVD, this is the first time a member of the House of Orange has officially attended an LBGT event. It's known that Princess Máxima has a lesbian aunt, but among the Oranges there have never been any gays... officially, that is...


I went to the memorial service on Saturday afternoon for the former co-director and co-founder of my Alma Mater, The Mountain School, in Vershire, Vermont. Doris Conard was also my sophomore English teacher. She died last week (Times Argus obit), aged 83 years, technically of Alzheimer's, but she really just stopped eating. Her husband, Mac, and her three sons, Nat, David and Peter, along with several alumnae and former and current teachers, current TMS students and Vershire residents, were at the service. David told us that, unlike the stereotypical Alzheimer's patient, his mother always recognised her husband and children, kept her sense of humour, and that her disgust of George W. Bush never faltered!

The service was very simple, some music interspersed with Quaker meeting-like silence and opportunities for reflection and expressions of remembrance. Strangely, it's always been Doris and Mac. You could not have one without the other. Mac opened my eyes to environmental writing (Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold ended up being the sacred texts of the school). Doris instilled a love of language and words. The great advantage of going to TMS was that learning happened outside of the class room as well as inside. Doris encouraged her students to keep a journal and "commonplace book," where they could jot down pithy sayings. She also introduced me to I.F. Stone's Weekly, a rabidly leftist newsletter, and his commentaries influenced my activist politics at university in the late 1960's.

I recalled towards the end of one meal at TMS - meals were served "family style" and students & faculty sat together - Doris exclaimed, "I have had a sufficiency; anything else would be a superfluity." She wasn't being pretentious or haughty at all. Just and unabashed exuberance and joy showing. I was a young 15 year old at the time and laughed nervously when she said it; but I wanted to know what the words meant, and after doing my dining room chores, I went scurrying to the library bookshelves to look up them up in the Thesaurus and dictionary.

Monday, February 25, 2008



This is not good news for CEDO, either, which makes a big deal about supporting home-grown, small businesses in our city. The recent closing of local businesses - particularly on Church Street and downtown, I'll leave for another day's post. People are disheartened by the growth and taking-over of big-box national conglomerate stores in our area. Don't let the Mayor and his minions at CEDO have their way, Burlington really doesn't need a big box recreation and entertainment centre right on the Waterfront!

Petra Cliffs, a respected Ward 5 Burlington business, has a press release urging voters in Burlington to vote NO on the Mayor's plan --

The Sad Truth About the Moran Plant
Why Petra Cliffs is no longer involved

Burlington, VT - March 4th is "Town Meeting" day here in Vermont. We'll finally get to express our opinions in regards to the race for President as well as on many other issues facing our great state. This particular "Town Meeting" day will be especially interesting for me. As you all know, I am the owner of Petra Cliffs and for going on 8 years now we have served the greater Burlington area the best way we know how. This year, Burlington residents are being asked to vote for the restoration of the Moran Plant on the beautiful Burlington Waterfront. The proposal that you are being asked to approve is, at first blush, one of great interest to many people: indoor ice-climbing, a children's museum, a restaurant, skating rink etc...why would a facility like the ever be a bad thing? I'll explain.

Last winter I was approached by Jamie Smith, owner of the Ice Factor and Chris Bacon, the owner of Northern Lights. Some would say that Jamie is the mastermind behind this proposal for the Moran. We sat in Roque's and had a nice lunch. During that first meeting I was told that of the intention to rebuild the Moran Plant and that the vision of that building was to build the "First Indoor Ice Climbing facility in the United States." I was told that the Burlington area is "simply not big enough for two climbing gyms" and that Petra Cliffs should consider joining in the development of the Moran Plant...or I'd "just be put out of business". I thought about the conversation for a couple days and decided that perhaps it was better to work collaboratively to create one really great facility that all of Vermont would be proud of. Over the coming months I sat in on MANY meetings that addressed quite a number of issues surrounding the development idea.

One issue that pressed us was determining what sort of partnership would be created between Petra Cliffs. Northern Lights and Ice Factor. Ultimately this conversation would ruin the opportunity for us to partner. First, Chris and Northern Lights pulled out of the deal for reasons having to do with money and who exactly was to contribute what. I held on for a while longer while we tried to sort out the relationship. Many ideas where shared but three floated to the surface, each ended with idea that Petra Cliffs would stay open until the day before opening day of the Moran Plant and then all of our members, clients, teams, clinics; really everything we do, would decant to the Moran and become the basis of Ice Factor's clientele. The proposed value of Petra Cliffs and the method for determining that value changed greatly over about 3 months. The most popular suggestions made by Ice Factor to determine value were:

1) shares in Ice Factor would be based on "turnover"
2) shares were to be based on an average of 5 years profit
3) shares would be based on annual sales

It was ultimately this lack of decision that made me decide that I could not in good faith support this project any further. I was in California working in October when it was announced, without absolute confirmation from me, that Petra Cliffs and Ice Factor would be working on a "join venture" to develop the Moran Plant. When I got the call from a friend of mine informing me of the announcement a wave a reality came rushing over me. I realized that I would never have say in what happened to the business. Jamie, and his colleague Phil had total control and it is my opinion that asking to have Petra Cliffs involved was more of a way to hamstring the competition than to actually have competitions. You know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer type of thing.

Since day 1 of my conversations with Jamie, I have asked over and over again "How exactly are we going to pay for this?" and the answer was always the same: "We'll charge a premium price for our services." I have owned Petra Cliffs for 3 years now and I know first hand the amount of money people are willing to spend rock climbing, ski mountaineering, ice climbing or even the possibility of indoor ice-climbing is not worth $200 for two hours of lessons...nor is $25 a fair value for a day pass. College kids, family and day visitors, at least those that live locally can not afford those rates. Jamie's plan is to take advantage of the "city money" and capitalize on this traveling wealth. It seems to me that no matter how many tourists we have visiting Burlington, no matter how much money they are willing to spend at the Ice Factor, we need to take care of our community, our kids, and our local climbing community first. Another question I have is about no time did it ever come up that my staff, all of them would be placed in the Ice a matter of fact, I was told on many occasions that Jamie intended to bring some of his guides and instructors across from Scotland to teach. I assume that to mean he felt my staff are not qualified to work in such an establisment.

I think the idea of the Ice Factor is really neat...I think it will fit perfectly in Vegas...maybe even in Boston or New York but not Burlington. As a small business owner in such an "unfriendly to business" state I personally struggle with the idea that City Hall would throw so much money at a project that is foreign funded, predominately foreign owned at the expense of an established locally owned, family oriented business such as Petra Cliffs. I enocourage you to make your own decisions, research the project and on March 4th, GET OUT THERE AND VOTE. This vote does not guarantee that the the project will happen but it does give the Ice Factor a seat at the table and the means to waste more of the our time wonding how long Petra Cliffs will remain open for business once the doors to the Moran Plant swing open. This vote gives the city permission to further investigate the project, spend more money on the project and, while perhaps unintentional, slowly erode the stablity of my business. I live in Williston so I don't even get a vote, but if I did you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd vote NO on the Moran Plant question and I'd be encouraging everyone I know to do the same. I'm not asking Jamie to abandon his idea, I'm not asking him to not build a name for Ice Factor here in the States...I'm just aksing you to not allow it to happen in Burlington.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Mike Anderson
Petra Cliffs Climbing Center
(802) 657-3872


Green Democratic Alliance has launched a special Moran Plant action and info page at:

March 4th is NEXT TUESDAY! Vote NO on #1 and YES! on #2.

Friday, February 22, 2008


By Eric Beauchemin Radio Netherlands Press Review 22 February 2008 -
The revelations published yesterday [links in English and Dutch] regarding bribes received by the late Dutch Prince Consort in the 1960s and '70s continue to make the headlines of today's papers. It was already known that Prince Bernhard had received bribes from the US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed, but a book published yesterday disclosed that another aircraft company, Northrop, gave the prince 750.000 dollars.

The affair was covered up by the then prime minister Joop den Uyl because former Queen Juliana threatened to abdicate and her daughter, Beatrix, allegedly said that under those circumstances she would not ascend the throne.

House of cards

Politicians from Den Uyl's Labour Party have expressed understanding for his decision to cover up the affair. As one senior Labour politician put it, if he hadn't "the whole house of cards would have collapsed". De Telegraaf writes that the Dutch parliamentarians have reacted unenthusiastically to the revelations. It quotes one MP as saying "it's old news", but the opposition Green Left party has asked for clarifications from the prime minister. It believes that a secret addendum to a report on the Lockheed affair, which contains the revelations, should now be published. The editorialist of de Volkskrant agrees: it was understandable that Joop den Uyl wanted to avoid a constitutional crisis, but he shouldn't have given in to the threats made by Queen Juliana or her daughter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld was on Dutch (satellite) tv tonight: on Het Gesprek (The conversation, a new Dutch tv channel focusing on the spoken word about one issue only instead of shallow talkshows about many issues): Een duurzaam gesprek/A sustainable conversation about ecosystems with Ilona Hofstra.

Irene is a social reformer and founder of Nature College. She manages a nature reserve in South Africa and is the author of several books, including Dialogue with Nature and Science, Soul, and the Spirit of Nature.

She is a very consistent woman who believes in what she says (in beautiful Dutch!) and who uses arguments for it. Irene is so convincing, well-read and knows what she talks about. She also understands people who have different opinions but doesn't stay in that status quo and wants to go on discussing, assessing, finding new ways. She sees everything in a bigger context. She is an Idealist, a fighter, a pioneer, in the true sense of the word. Al Gore is just a trendhopper... Irene talked about these issues 20 years ago already. She's quite critical about real measures with regard to sustainability (instead of the wordy promises).

I love when she sees

- People as part of a whole: Nature and Mankind.

- Nature is, Nature doesn't lie, doens't pretend to be.

- Sustainability is our biggest spiritual gift.

- Different sorts people are part of One Nature

- Who am I to judge?

- From behind the palace walls (seclusion), Irene wants to be close to people.

- When the Man and the CEO merge, the world would be a better place.

- When Economy and Ecology merge the main problem would be solved.

- Using my Title etc.: if it helps .... [Irene is titled Princess of Oranje-Nassau and is the second child of Princess Juliana of the Netherlands (later Queen Juliana) and Prince Bernhard, a prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld. She is the sister of the current Queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix.]

- Nature is without Pomp (franje in Dutch). I removed the Pomp.

- Respect to others gives inner rest.

- This Sustainable Conversation was meant to be a conversation, not an Interview, so the Princess asked some questions too...

Monday, February 18, 2008


FROM AUSTIN -- HOLES IN THE WALL in the Texas Observer

As the Department of Homeland Security marches down the Texas border serving condemnation lawsuits to frightened landowners, South Texas residents Eloisa Tamez and Daniel Garza wonder why their modest homes are being condemned while the property of their wealthier neighbors remains untouched.

In Hidalgo County, a 1.73-mile proposed fence will cut through the tiny town of Granjeno then stop abruptly at the property line of a 6,000-acre development owned by a wealthy Dallas oil baron, and a close friend of President George W. Bush. In Cameron County a 1.63-mile proposed fence will cut through the backyard of several modest homes and stop at the edge of a resort and golf course.

The Observer's investigative reporter Melissa del Bosque traveled up and down the Texas border, speaking with landowners, local officials, congressional offices and Homeland Security officials about the border fence. What she got from Homeland Security was a barrier of secrecy and unanswered questions about the methodology used in the placement of a fence that targets the powerless.

Chad Foster, Mayor of Eagle Pass, a city being sued by Homeland Security, summed it up best when he called the border wall a $49-billion boondoggle that is enriching private companies at the taxpayers' expense.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Joe Lieberman, who had the support of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in his 2006 Democratic senatorial primary bid in Connecticut, says waterboarding is not torture.

I was appalled after listening earlier this week to an NPR account of a conversation Ari Shapiro had with AG Michael Mukasey when he made a surprise visit to Iraq (my emphasis):

Mukasey found it personally repugnant, and might consider it torture if it was done to him [!]. "In the context of a CIA interrogation it would be used on very different people in different circumstances. 'These are people who self-select for their ability to resist the technique.' "

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Talk about embarrassing fucked up moments. At tonight's Burlington Ward 2/3 NPA, Green Democratic Alliance was listed on the meeting agenda to talk about the Moran Plant smart demolition ballot item. But you know what? Neither CEDO nor the NPA steering committee members bothered to invite GDA, let alone let us know that we were on the program. Was this just an innocent oversight? Or were there people on the steering committee, along with CEDO staff, that didn't want the GDA to know that we were slated to speak tonight? Just think of the potential to embarrass GDA in these heavy Prog (and pro-Moran redevelopment) wards. Loyal Ploof, Democratic City Council candidate for Ward 2 and board member of GDA, who was there in the candidate forum, was able to talk about smart demolition, but was treated with disdain and was outnumbered by pro-development candidates Hoekstra and Davis. More on this story as it develops.


David Berezniak's campaign website is up and running!

Green Democratic Alliance endorsed David for the Ward 2 Burlington City Council race on Sunday, 2 February. Read David's responses to the GDA 2008 city council questionnaire here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


A rather revealing quote by HRC in an NYT article
"My opponent was able to raise more money, and we intended to be competitive, and we were, and I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment."

Eli Stephens
over at Left I on the News writes:
And doesn't that tell you an awful lot about capitalist "democracy" - you can only be "competitive" if you have money, and a lot of it.
At least one billion dollars are going to be spent on this Presidential election, and probably more. This isn't just a perversion of any concept of "democracy," it's downright obscene. I'm sure I don't need to say this, but do you have any idea what could be accomplished with a billion dollars, in a country with hundreds of thousands of homeless people, millions of people without jobs or health care, and on and on? I'm sure you do.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Kevin Zeese writes in Counterpunch how Dennis Kucinch is being McKinney'd:
[...E]lected officials like McKinney and Kucinch who challenge the Democratic Party line--who think for themselves and feel a responsibility to fight for their constituents and challenge corporate power--are a hindrance to the party leadership. They get in the way and let the public know what is really going on. So, they must be either tamed or made an example of. If Kucinich gets McKinney'd you can be sure the message will be received. Those, like Congressman Conyers, who've been around for awhile (Conyers has been in the House since 1965) know better than to step too far out of line. So, Conyers has remained silent on Bush's law breaking--protecting his committee chairmanship by being afraid to use it. Conyers has been tamed but Kucinich hasn't. So, Kucinich needs to be taught a lesson that other members will learn from. The growing revolt of the "Out of Iraq Caucus" needs to be kept impotent. Knocking out Kucinich will prevent others from too loudly disobeying [the Establishment] leadership.


Binh at Prisoner of Starvation tells us how and why the Democratic Party's use of Super Delegates is not very democratic:
Nearly 40 percent of the delegate votes are controlled by 842 "super delegates" - people like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and other past and present elected officials who collectively make up the party's Establishment. No one votes for them and yet they have a tremendous amount of control over who the party's nominee will be.

Super delegates were created in the wake of George McGovern's disastrous 1972 presidential run (he won only one state and the District of Colombia). Party bosses exploited his defeat to throttle the left within the party and argue that the Democrats had to move to the right if they wanted to win elections.
Nevermind the fact that in 1992 people voted for Bill Clinton hoping that he would deliver on his promise of universal health care and a decisive break with Reagan's all-out war-on-the-poor. In 2006 they claimed that their victory at the polls showed they had a mandate to force Bush to execute a slow, steady, incomplete withdrawal from Iraq, even though a majority of Americans favor a total withdrawal. And in 2008, Clinton or Obama will be elected because voters are desperate for a radical break with Bushism although the election of either will certainly begin an era of Bushism without Bush.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Here's last week's full Green Democratic Alliance press conference about the Moran Plant referendum ballot and smart demolition, which recently aired on Channel 17.


Vermont Interfaith Action, a consortium of 7 area religious congregations, will hold a public action meeting -- this Sunday, Feb. 10 from 3 to 4:15 p.m. at St. Paul's Cathedral, 2 Cherry Street, Burlington -- to address specific concerns raised by the failure of the developer of the Westlake property at Battery and Cherry Streets to build affordable housing on-site, as he was required and had made a commitment to do. Based on extensive research over the last six months by VIA leaders as to how this failure occurred, VIA will also ask for city officials to re-commit to building mixed-income housing in Burlington and to revise the city's development process so that what happened at Westlake will not happen again.

VIA hopes to fill St. Paul's with lots of people in the community -- but we need
to be careful about filling their parking lot with lots of cars! Please plan
to carpool, or to park on the street (Sunday parking is free), or in the
Macy's lot across the street. This will give more space for the special guests,
who will definitely include the new Director of CEDO, Larry Kupferman, as well as several City Councilors, members of the Planning Commission, Design Review Board, and Mayor Bob Kiss.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


It's those phucking phthalates again and the EPA is doing nothing about it!

WASHINGTON – Environmental Working Group (EWG) Vice President for Research Jane Houlihan issued the following statement in response to a study appearing today in the journal Pediatrics showing for the first time that infants are exposed to potent reproductive toxins called phthalates from everyday baby products, including shampoo, lotion, and powder.

"This new research provides strong evidence that phthalates in baby products end up inside babies’ bodies, where they pose real-world risks for reproductive system damage among baby boys. We hope these results spur companies to remove phthalates from products sold in the U.S. Many of these same chemicals are banned from baby products in other countries. There is no justification for keeping them on the shelves here,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research of Environmental Working Group.

Unlike for food additives and drugs, cosmetic companies aren’t required to test their products for safety before they are sold. “This study confirms that it’s high time for Congress to update standards for cosmetics, and require that companies prove their products are safe for children before they go on store shelves,” added Houlihan.

An EWG study found that personal care products expose children to an average of 60 chemicals every day that they can breathe in or that absorb through their skin. EWG product testing, conducted in partnership with Health Care Without Harm and other members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, showed phthalates in three-quarters of 72 name-brand products tested. Because federal law contains no safety standard for cosmetics, it is legal for companies to use ingredients that are reproductive toxins like phthalates, carcinogens, and other potentially harmful substances.

EWG publishes an online safety guide for more than 27,000 personal care products, including a wide range of baby products, with safety information for not only phthalates but also more than 7,000 other product ingredients.


From SPEAKING to the SOUL -
Ogden Nash has a delightful poem called “Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man” that explores comically the classic distinction between sins of commission and sins of omission. He warns us not to bother our heads about the first kind, “because however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be committing them.” It is through the sins of omission that we get bitten. These are the things that “lay eggs under our skin.” What we do wrong is often less harmful than our failure to do good. Our wrongdoing is so often powered by an energy that can be converted to good. The secret of sin does not lie in our energetic but misdirected action; it lies in our inertia and forgetfulness, in our inner deadness, denial, and boredom. The secret of hell lies in our not loving, in our not risking, in our withholding. Evil is our paralysis in the face of love’s invitation, our great refusal.
Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
by Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of
omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people,
from Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as, in
a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don't bother your head about sins of commission because however
sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn't be committing
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you get really painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks you haven't added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven't kept and the bills you
haven't paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forgot to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this
round of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a lot more trouble than
the unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind
of sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.


Old news of course, but a few months ago, it was announced that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, raised an Anglican (one step from Rome), had been received in the Roman Catholic Church. I saw this apt letter today from the Guardian about his conversion.
Blair's conversion and the archers of 1066

Monday December 24, 2007
The Guardian

How times change when it comes to full communion with the Catholic church.

After the battle of Hastings substantial penances were imposed on William the Conqueror's soldiers by the bishops at the Council of Westminster. Even the archers who fought at long range and did not know whether they had killed anyone had to do penance for three successive Lents.

They got off lightly. After the battle of Soissons (923) all those who took part had a year of excommunication, and then bread and water only, for three days a week. Tony Blair has had it easy.
Bruce Kent and Valerie Flessati