Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Michael Colby, true to form, has a few choice words to say about the undemocratic DNC and the oh-so-important Vermont bloggers who are having the time of their lives in Denver.
It’s going to be a long week if you think democracy is happening in Denver. It’s as staged as staged can possibly be. In the end, it will be nothing short of the most massive, unending documentation of nothing other than the coronation of Barack Obama that democracy has seen since – oh – the most massive, unending documentation of nothing other than the coronation of John Kerry. But America loves spectacles as much as it loves suckers. And, together, it makes a convention.


REMEMBER, Obama voted for FISA.

JANE HAMSHER & GLENN GREENWALD were kept outside an ATT party in Denver --

"It was really the perfect symbol for how the Beltway political system functions -- those who dictate the nation's laws (the largest corporations and their lobbyists) cavorting in total secrecy with those who are elected to write those laws (members of Congress), while completely prohibiting the public from having any access to and knowledge of -- let alone involvement in -- what they are doing. And all of this was arranged by the corporation -- AT&T -- that is paying for a substantial part of the Democratic National Convention with millions upon millions of dollars, which just received an extraordinary gift of retroactive amnesty from the Congress controlled by that party, whose logo is splattered throughout the city wherever the DNC logo appears -- virtually attached to it -- all taking place next to the stadium where the Democratic presidential nominee, claiming he will cleanse the Beltway of corporate and lobbying influences, will accept the nomination on Thursday night."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


OWEN MULLIGAN, elected last March as the new Ward Clerk in Burlington's Ward 6, has made some changes in his oversight and running of the polling station at Edmunds Middle School.

First off, he placed an invitation in the Front Porch Forum to Ward 6 residents to become assistant election workers. Owen told me today that the response has been overwhelming. People actually want to help out on the September 9th Primary and at the General Election on November 4.

It's fairer and more democratic to have election workers from all the different political parties in Burlington. (Indeed, the workers are required to be non-partisan and, under the supervision of the ward clerk, to make sure the election process in Ward 6 runs smoothly and fairly.)

Already - in the spirit of openness and fair-play (actually it's required, too) - Owen tells me there will be a Libertarian, Burlilngton Green, Democrat, Progressive, Republican and Independent on the rota for working both days. I don't think there's ever been an effort like this on the part of a ward clerk to invite this much diversity in election workers.

And, another first: a 16 year old student will be working as an election worker! The young man wanted to help out. Owen checked with the city clerk's office and the city attorney checked the statute.
Subject: Re: age limit for election workers
The BCA can appoint a resident of a voting district who is 16 or 17 to
serve as an AEO. The youth has all the same duties as an adult AEO but
must work under the "direct supervision" of an adult election official.
See 17 VSA s. 2454 (b).
Pretty neat, huh?

There will be some good changes on the outside of the polling place. Back in 2006, Sanders and Tarrant bombarded the lawn, greenspace, and street entrances to Edmunds (and other ward polling places) with hundreds of campaign signs. It's not only unfair to other candidates, but it's a ridiculous use of paper. Plus, it creates a sea of campaign posters that just register as a a mass of campaign colors.

So this year in Ward 6 candidates will be limited to just 4 signs each in the ground outside of Edmunds. Campaign workers can hold as many signs as they want, but they'll be limited to a cordoned-off area - strictly marked and designated - to allow voter access to the path up to the entrance of the school's gym. Meet and greet the voters, but don't hinder their access and right to vote. Good idea!


THE REAL NEWS talks with Naomi Klein about Barack Obama --

Friday, August 22, 2008


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN Planning to E-Vote? Read This First (ht2 Undernews)
In their rush to avoid a repeat of the controversy that plagued the 2000 presidential election, and to meet the requirements of Congress's hastily mandated 2002 Help America Vote Act, states and counties flocked to electronic voting systems they hoped would eliminate hanging chads and other flaws inherent in paper-based systems. Six years later, with another presidential election less than three months away, many e-voting systems are fraught with security glitches, and the technology has yet to prove itself as the solution voters were looking for.

Such systems could allow voters and poll workers to place multiple votes, crash the systems by loading viruses, and fake vote tallies, according to studies commissioned by the states of California and Ohio within the past year [. . .]

One of the reasons e-voting systems turned out to be such a failure is that the only people involved in checking these systems were the vendors, who wanted to sell their technology, and the local election officials, who were ill-equipped to understand the security issues. . .
And there's this WaPo article where Premier Election Solutions f/k/a Diebold (the irony of that new branding!) admits error. (ht2 Talk Left)
A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges.
All the more reason to do what Canada does: use paper and hand-counted ballots! Deb Markowitz, are you listening?


Read this McClatchy story about Barack Obama and tell me if you don't think it's inherently racist. And shame on the former Middlebury poli sci prof Eric Davis (a Vermont "media favorite"), who's quoted in the article.


TERENCE BLACKER The Independent on the deal to send two giant pandas from China to the Edinburgh Zoo
The deal is simple: Britain's political leaders and Royal Family have been working tirelessly to hire a couple of sensitive, endangered animals as prize money-making exhibits for Edinburgh Zoo.
Exploiting these luckless victims of human arrogance by presenting dysfunctional animal behaviour as if it were some kind of soap opera compounds the immorality. The idea that children are educated by gawping at miserable wild animals is an insult to the intelligence. If anything, all they learn is that it is fine to treat wild animals as a show.

The age of the zoo is over. Sensible families will keep their children away from the two luckless giant pandas who will soon be making Edinburgh their miserable home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



I stopped by the local downtown Borders bookstore today, looking for the newly published paperback edition of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. The store clerk told me it was in stock and he directed me to the proper shelf. Well, it wasn't there. Lo and behold, he checked the inventory and found that all the books had been sold. "We had a run on the hardcover, too," he told me. I ordered the book.

So, I'm gazing over at a display of books ("Read These Books Before You Vote," the sign said) and found the usual Republican and Democratic crap. (Amazingly there were a lot of what-looked-like conservative books displayed; this, in a so-called "socialist" town.) I told this nice clerk man that he really should have Dennis Perrin's Savage Mules on display as a MUST READ, too. (Check out Christian Avard's HuffPost review here.) I 'splained a bit about the book's premise and he checked to see if there were any in stock (there was one copy). "I'll order more copies," he said as he clicked the appropriate screens on his computer right there in front of me. Coolio, dude! Apparently he had the authority to order the book, so I thanked him heartily.


My mother, were she still alive (she would have been 95 next month), would remember her. Lita Rosa, has died this week at age 82. She sang with the renowned Ted Heath Band
and with her smouldering looks, immaculate gowns and trademark stiletto heels, she became something of a pin-up. She signed with Decca Records and had hits with Allentown Jail and Blacksmith Bessie, both regarded as classics, but ironically her biggest success was How Much is that Doggie in the Window?, a song she hated. “I went into the studio and only sung it once and I’ve never sung it again,” she recalled. “It was rubbish.”

She was the singing voice of her native Liverpool before the Fab Four knew what a guitar was. I still have the LP album Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea my mother bought back in 1959.

"In the 50s we were called pop stars, and then we became middle-of-the-road, and now it's the end of the road." - Ms. Rosa, in a very cool 2005 BBC Radio Liverpool interview.

Monday, August 18, 2008


No, not the Shroud of Turin. On this August morning, it's worth giving y'all the whole post from Ten Percent
Something to brighten (at least where I am) this damp drizzly Monday, the snack food Messiah is here! Via the splendidly named Lesbian Pirate Queen blog (nevermind a blog, that’s a movie waiting to happen!)-
A Missouri woman is claiming she recently discovered a depiction of the crucifixion in her Cheetos. “I think I found Jesus on a Cheeto, as funny as that sounds,” said Kelly Ramey of High Ridge.

Ramey’s pastor, David Bennett, was not as enthusiastic about the Cheeto’s theological significance, but he thinks some good may come of it. “If people can find Jesus, somehow, in each of us like she’s found in this object, that would be a wonderful thing.” Her husband has a special name for it. “He calls him Cheesus.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008


DUNGLISH (Yeah, from Dunglish - posting now, back from their summer holidays) ...
It’s not really fair to call this Spanglish, a mix of English and Spanish that makes me think of East Los Angeles, but ‘Cataglish’ (Catalan and English) sounds terrible. Anyhoo, this was spotted in Barcelona, a city that I can safely say is very easy to get around in in Spanish, Catalan, English and just plain pointing at things.

But this is just funny because the Italian is apparently good and the rest goes ‘de mal en peor’ (’from bad to worse’). The French has spelling mistakes, as it should be ‘français’ (odd, since the Catalans use the ‘ç’, as in ‘Barça’, short for ‘Barcelona’). The European French as opposed to French Canadians would argue it should be ‘nous parlons français’ (’we speak French’) as opposed to the impersonal ‘on’ (’one speaks French’), which almost looked familiar to me.

And I have a theory about the ’speak English’, which is giving an order to speak English. The Spanish, and maybe the Catalans, remove the personal pronoun in front of a verb when they speak. The idea is that when reading the verb, you know who’s talking. This is true in Spanish, but not in English, while in French it’s not allowed. Hence, the commanding tone. But my theory doesn’t work with the rest, which is why I posted this mess in the first place.


HERE'S a fascinating bit of downtown Burlington history from Greg Guma's MAVERICK MEDIA. It's part of a series of posts this month, Vermont: Prelude to a Revolution (Don't miss the YouTube clip at the bottom.)
Queen City: Finding the Weak Spot

“A $52 million commercial complex will be built in Burlington during the next five years, unless residents of the City strongly resist plans now being made by City and State officials. In bits and pieces, people will be urged to pay $8 million to help business and banking interests turn the Queen City into a regional center for tourism and entertainment.” -- Public Occurrence, Spring 1976

“What’s this shit?" The mayor barked, tossing a copy of the latest Public Occurrence on his desk. He’d already confiscated a pile left near the entrance to City Hall. Thousands more were circulating all over town and across Vermont. The same “call to action” was being printed in several community newspapers.

At the bottom of the back page, below an article headlined “Stop the South End Connector!” was my name. Gordie Paquette could barely believe it. Someone working in City Hall had attacked the biggest commercial project in city history. But I wasn’t a city employee. I was a contract worker being paid by a grant, and the advisory panel didn’t care about my off-the books activities.

I’d been coordinating research on “youth needs” for a few months, using sophisticated survey tools with more than a thousand kids and staff at the various schools and social service agencies. In the process I’d built some rapport with members of the Burlington Youth Council, the panel appointed to supervise the project. It was led by Vivian Hartigan, a savvy local matron with solid city and Party roots. She didn’t trust Gordie to do much about the problems but was determined to make him try.

Access to city records netted some useful information about local projects. I read the files and copied reports, feeding information to the activists. Despite the high stakes for the city no statement had been issued about the true scope of redevelopment. The politicians and planners were hoping to sneak it through, bit by bit, worried that if the general public saw what was really going on, before the pieces were all in place, there could be some resistance. Exactly.

After examining economic and planning data, and identifying various pieces of the Master Plan, I reached the conclusion that the South End Connector, a proposed access road to link the Interstate with downtown, was the lynchpin. It was the key incentive developers wanted, and could only be built if the city won approval for spending, probably by floating local bonds, to cover its share of construction. If the road was stopped, or at least questioned and delayed, other projects might be derailed or changed.

But my thoughts went farther. Step one was to change the local debate, convincing enough people that Burlington faced a series of related crises – housing, youth, employment, traffic, and commercial development. To do that meant finding ways to legitimize dissent through various local media and organizing tactics. It would also be necessary to create more media alternatives. Public Occurrence was just the first step. Step two was to connect the dots between issues, build links between special focus groups, and create new ones to deal with issues like the Connector, mall development, and suburban sprawl. It might take years, but in the end the City would have to respond. Finally, a new citywide organization would be necessary if we were going to split the Democratic Party’s base, motivate the disenfranchised, and win political power.

In short, I devised a Five-Year Plan to overturn the local power structure. For obvious reasons I kept most of the details private. Some friends already thought I was a bit unrealistic. But I did write down and share the basic strategy with a few close associates. Persuaded by the analysis they nevertheless doubted that it would work.

My wife came straight to the point. “Who’s going to become mayor? You?” she asked. I hadn’t actually thought about running yet, focused on creating the right conditions for rebellion. But why not? Was it so outrageous? “You’re really not electable,” she added, answering her own question. “Why?” I inquired.

“You’re just not white enough.” What she meant was that Vermont, even a city like Burlington, wouldn’t accept an ethnic “outsider” as a political leader. Especially not an olive-skinned newcomer with an “exotic” name.

She had a point. I wasn’t “mainstream,” and Vermont tended to elect either born-and-bred Vermonters or professional ex-urbanites like Phil Hoff, Tom Salmon, and Richard Snelling. But I could worry about that later. The task at hand was to frame the issues, legitimize the opposition, and peel off part of the dominant power’s base.

Gordie Paquette had no idea what I was thinking. He barely knew who I was, just some consultant brought in to appease a few locals about the kids. A report would be filed and promptly forgotten, he assumed. But he wasn’t about to let someone work in his building and criticize his agenda.

I’d prepared for this moment. The consulting gig wouldn’t last beyond the summer. There wasn’t much Gordie could do beyond bluster. But I could find out something – what made him tick, what he thought about what he was doing. Basically, I could size him up. Thus, I just ignored the bluster and spoke as if we were equals, just two guys shooting the bull. People were skeptical about his plans, I explained. They didn’t understand why he was ignoring local problems and planning to roll over for commercial developers.

His defense was a shock. “I have no choice,” he complained. If he didn’t back these public improvements some of the city’s biggest local merchants were threatening to relocate to the suburbs. It was blatant commercial blackmail. Williston, a nearby “bedroom” community with Interstate access, was destined to become a commercial center; an upstate New York mall chain called Pyramid was already eyeing property. The only way to “save” the city was to improve access and make downtown more attractive to developers, chains, and tourists, he said.

Gordon Paquette was supposedly a “strong mayor,” the reputed boss of the city for more than a decade. Yet he sounded powerless, weak. Almost whining, he protested that he was really a man of the people, but the people didn’t understand the stakes. I acted sympathetic but stood my ground. Meanwhile I thought: this guy can be beaten with the right campaign.

Part Seven of Prelude to a Revolution

Next: From City Hall to the Streets
Greg added this to his post: Where we are now

Thirty Years Later: Touring Burlington

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Back in June, I wrote about Burlington:Surveillance City. GMD links to a disturbing story in the WaPo
Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush's successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.

Under the Justice Department proposal for state and local police, published for public comment July 31, law enforcement agencies would be allowed to target groups as well as individuals, and to launch a criminal intelligence investigation based on the suspicion that a target is engaged in terrorism or providing material support to terrorists. They also could share results with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and others in many cases.

Criminal intelligence data starts with sources as basic as public records and the Internet, but also includes law enforcement databases, confidential and undercover sources, and active surveillance.

"If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," Michael German (an FBI agent for 16 years )policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."
And, in my June post, BDP "community policing" means citizens becoming spies for them.
the local Burlington Police officer assigned to our area gave a run down of the usual summer house and car break ins ("keep your doors and windows locked") and encouraged the law abiding citizenry to report to BPD any questionable activity on our streets and in our neighborhood parks. Even if it turns out harmless, he told the Assembly, the police would find out what's up.[...] If the person is not doing anything wrong, he continued (I'm paraphrasing), a good citizen won't mind being asked a few questions by the officer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


No, it's not an offer of lunch. The media report that many of us are functioning as full- or part-time unpaid caregivers, for elderly and/or disabled parents or grandparents, for children, for grandchildren whose parents are absent or temporarily or permanently unable to care for their offspring. And some of us are caring for two or more generations at a time!

The new name for baby boomers is the "sandwich generation." It's a funny term for a very serious challenge, which often brings overwhelming financial and emotional demands, guilt, burnout, and overstressed, damaged relationships.



There's a revolution going on in the world of the bicycle. The new electric bikes, or e-bikes, are a hit in the Netherlands with everyone from pensioners to school kids. The demand is so great, the manufacturers can't keep up, and you can wait up to six months for one.


I just noticed that the price of print editon of the weekday Burlington Free Press has risen to 75 cents. With all that cash, one would hope the paper will hire a real investigative journalist. And not continue to rely on the lazy cut and paste of press releases that John Briggs gives us.

Wishlist: Sell the paper to McClatchy. We need quality journalism in Burlington.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Savitri Hensman has written an op-ed in the Guardian [11 August 2008]
As the Lambeth conference in Canterbury was drawing to a close, Michael Causer died. He was not an Anglican bishop, but an 18-year-old hairdresser, a popular lad described by his family as "definitely a 'people's person'. Our world will never be the same without him." He was the victim of a homophobic attack.
Every decade or so, the Lambeth conference has urged bishops to champion human rights for all and enter into dialogue with the gay and lesbian community. But this has been widely ignored: blessing same-sex couples is apparently a far greater offence than allying with repressive governments to hunt them down.
On the Sunday when the conference ended, speakers at the International Aids Conference in Mexico highlighted the deadly impact of homophobia. Discrimination against men who have sex with men must end, the secretary general of the United Nations urged. "We need to engage them, we need to take care of them, we should not forget about them," said the director general of the World Health Organisation.

Meanwhile, at the Lambeth conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury appealed for a "covenant of faith" that would "promise to our fellow human beings the generosity God has shown us", and suggested "a Pastoral Forum to support minorities". But to him, those needing greater generosity and pastoral care were mainly Christians with strong objections to same-sex partnerships. While he is a humane man, his priorities seem strange. If Anglicans are to remain relevant, and a force for good, bishops need to listen more carefully to people like Michael Causer's family.
(Thanks to Episcopal Café for the heads-up.)


THINKING ANGLICANS [Fort Worth: some look to Rome]
The Dallas Morning News has this report: Episcopal priests from Fort Worth may be looking at Catholicism.
A delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

Whether that portends a serious move to turn Fort Worth Episcopalians and their churches into Catholics and Catholic churches is a matter of dispute.

The Rev. William Crary, senior rector of the Fort Worth diocese, confirmed that on June 16 he and three other priests met with Bishop Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Catholic diocese, and presented him a document that is highly critical of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The document states that the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergy in the Fort Worth diocese favor pursuing an “active plan” to bring the diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church…
To which I made a comment
I swear it's like a migraine that just won't go away. Certainly, there is no humility shown by these clergy types from Ft Worth. This is not the first time some Episcopal clergy wanted to go to Rome, right? Well, why don't they just go! But they also want to take their wives with them and I doubt that Rome will like that. (Will these priests receive special treatment in in the Roman Church?)... how can a small group of priests decide for the members of their parishes?
Not to go unmentioned is the drastic state of American RC parishes. With the dwindling numbers attending mass and the consolidation of parishes in some cities or the actual boarding up of parishes by their diocesan bishops, will the Episcopalians be expected to give their financial support, especially after they've had to $deal$ with the property lawsuits surrounding their former parishes?

And Jack Iker is married; I daresay Benny won't let Iker borrow his mitre!


Been searching the last few days and found some good analysis on the Georgia-Russia conflict.

OBSOLETE [Another war in the silly season.]
Atrocities have undoubtedly been committed by both sides. Craig Murray calls Georgia's actions lawful, but by the survivor accounts we have heard they were certainly being completely indiscriminate in both shelling and sniping. Russia's response has also clearly gone beyond the realms of defending citizens that both they and it regard as subjectively their own; the raids on Gori, attacks on Tbilisi airport and the targeting of economic as well as military installations further confirms this.
There are, to repeat, no good guys here. Russia, as if it needed to be mentioned, is hardly acquiescent when it comes to regions which want to break away from it, such as Chechnya, subjected to horrific conflict throughout the 90s and into the 00s, with the destruction which Grozny suffered an reminder of what Georgia might yet be in store for. Georgia however, and its desire to be seen as the victim, are equally as false and facile. What must urgently be rejected is the tendency to see this either as a resurrection of the cold war or as a great opportunity for the old Russiaphobia to once again take hold, something which CiF seems to be trying to achieve. All of the historical precedents which have been sited, whether they be 1938, 1956 or 1968, are not yet applicable, nor does it seem they will become so. It also undoubtedly punctures another hole in the fatuous idea of Thomas Friedman's that countries that have McDonald's don't go to war with each other. The key now is ensuring that this war is ended before any McDonald's themselves are destroyed.
korova in MoA [South Ossetia Through the Looking Glass]
Whilst it appears to have been forgotten by much of the media, it was Georgia that instigated the recent violence. Keen to recover the kind of popularity he received at the instigation of the Rose Revolution, Saakashavili has seen his approval rating plummet from around 86% when entering office to around 16% at the end of 2007. Given the problems in South Ossetia, an attempt to unify Georgia would surely boost approval ratings. All that was needed was the support of the US and other Western allies to ensure that it could go ahead without getting in the way of Georgia's broader ambitions (EU, NATO etc). Given the strategic significance of the region for the US (particularly in light of the missile defence program), there was no way that the US would stand in the way. In fact, there has been some evidence that the US had been actively involved in the assault on South Ossetia.
The fact that Georgia had increased it's military spending from $30 million to $1 billion, and that the US was giving massive military aid, indicates that the Georgian government were preparing for open conflict. Furthermore, the US has further worsened the situation in South Ossetia by airlifting Georgian troops from Iraq into Georgia in an attempt to aid the Georgian government. Bush's finger prints are all over this one. Clearly they have pushed the boat out to aid a fellow economic liberal in yet another disastrous foreign intervention. Much like the situation in Lebanon in 2006, the US's actions will only lead to a strengthening of the power they were seeking to undermine. The 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon led to the strengthening of Hezbollah and Iran. There is no doubt that this current conflict will lead to the strengthening of Russia within the region.


Last year, I commented on the RED campaign here and here, so it's interesting to read this:

Via typing is not activism (a cool blog I've discovered)
Bono, retire from public life and we’ll donate a ton of money to fight AIDS is exactly what it sounds like. Gotta love that. Turns out that the RED campaign has spent more on marketing associated brands - like American Express - than it has actually raised for charity. Hmmm. What does that sound like….?
St. Basil on the profit motive (4th Century):

"While we try to amass wealth, make piles of money, get hold of the land as our real property, overtop one another in riches, we have palpably cast off justice, and lost the common good. I should like to know how any man can be just, who is deliberately aiming to get out of someone else what he wants for himself."

Monday, August 11, 2008


As reported last week in Parool, there was a proposal that English should become Amsterdam's official second language.
''In Amsterdam English is accepted everywhere, except at City Hall,'' says [Amsterdam City Councilor Jan] Paternotte. ''Reporting a crime to the police can only be done in Dutch and local taxes are imposed solely in Dutch. However, English is undoubtedly the second language of the city, simply because it is the world language and a lot of American and British people live here or come over here for their holidays.''

Public information from the city council and local boroughs should be available on the internet, according to the proposal by Paternotte. This way, foreigners could, for instance, find out when to put out their garbage bags.
That Parool article was written in Dutch and English.

But now, in another Parool article (in Dutch only) we read that other city officials think that A'dam already has enough English. Fortunately, has a follow up in English --
Socialist councillor Carlien Boelhouwer tells the paper that the suggestion is 'ridiculous'. 'Why not go for Moroccan or Turkish?' she asks, adding that 'expats could learn a little Dutch as well.'

But Liberal councillor Huub Verweij sees merit in the plan. 'And then we should adopt the American attitude to service, German discipline, the beauty of northern Scandinavia and a real Liberal government for the city,' he says on his weblog.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


An olympian confrontation maybe, but this is not about the games.

Are Wall Street fund managers and investors stupid enough to believe that a new Cold War is a good idea? Evidently so. Because that's the objective of the Georgian leadership and their American and Israeli supporters in the defense and intelligence services. As for the rest of us, they could care less. Why should they? We haven't done anything for a quite awhile to compel them to do so. We can, however, be certain that we will hear very little of the fact that the Georgian military has been trained by the US (so far, only in the context of allying fears that some US officers may have been killed or wounded during a Russian air attack), and nothing about the sales of Israeli weapons to Georgia.

One gets the troubling sense that the US, France and Britain, among others, are going to adopt the same response that they did after the Israel conducted a campaign of air strikes upon Lebanon around this same time in the summer of 2006: use the United Nations to pressure the side subject to the attack to make concessions to the aggressor. The Lebanese victims of Israeli airstrikes, over 1,300 people, plus the prospect of subsequent deaths and injuries as a result of cluster bombs, meant nothing to them in the face of more cynical, abstract, geopolitical concerns of the imperialist kind, and the lives of South Ossetians will be equally irrelevant.
Read the rest here , and more - as the story broke earlier this week - here and here.

Last night I watched the BBC World News lengthy coverage of this conflict and noticed that neither the US training the Georgians nor Israeli arms connection was mentioned.

Friday, August 8, 2008


ACTUALLY, I heard about this today on Writer's Almanac, but what struck me was Keillor's dead-pan delivery (is this his normal 'voice'?)
It was on this day in 1974 that Richard M. Nixon resigned the office of the presidency, the first American president in history to do so. His policies as president had been rather liberal. He began arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. He eased relations with China. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded Social Security and state welfare programs, and tried to create a national health insurance system.

He won re-election in 1972 in a landslide, but in that same year, a group of men broke into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, and in that break-in were the seeds of his downfall.
Well, all the news today is focussed on the Olympics opening, of course. But I did a google news search for 'nixon resigns' and all I got was a bunch of Today in History stories.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


The Nation magazine has an open letter to Barack Obama. It's a chicken-shit stupid letter, signed in desperation by some liberals, that begs the "candidate for change" to listen to them (as his "center" swerves evermore to the right).

Richard at American Leftist writes:
In such circumstances, it is an act of public humiliation to place one's name on this letter. One gets the impression that it serves the purpose of providing political cover for the signatories as much as it does the goal of attempting to persuade Obama to alter his political program. By signing the letter, they are able to continue to say, Vote Obama, while simultaneously distancing themselves from anything that he does.

Such behaviour reminds me of how congressional representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters and Diane Watson did something similar when they expressed their personal opposition to the war in Iraq while rounding up votes for House passage of continued funding of it. It is bad enough when we must deal with politicians who relate to us cynically, but it is even worse when some of our most prominent and highly respected social figures emulate and empower them.
The voters will get what they deserve anyway, come November. The current Democratic leadership makes a mockery of democracy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Willem Alexander, the Prince of Orange and "critical" member of the International Olympic Committee has said today []
the torch relay has become a target for protests, is not part of the original Olympic tradition and is extremely costly.

He said the torch should only be carried round Greece, the home of the Olympics, and the country hosting the event. This was, he said, the original practice.

Demonstrations against China's treatment of Tibet during this year’s relay has meant that the torch, which is supposed to be ‘a symbol of hope’, has become ‘a target for protest’, prince Willem-Alexander told the Telegraaf.

The huge media interest in the relay makes it an ideal target for protests, he said. He added that the reinstatement of the old tradition would protect the Olympic symbol from destruction.

Commenting on the human rights situation in China, the prince said that sport and politics should not be mixed. ‘Sport should always stand above politics. That's not to say that I see the world in black and white.

'The Olympic spirit is about promoting brotherhood and to do that, athletes from around the world should be able to travel to the games without any problems.
The prince's remarks are commendable, but he is partly right.

Here's something else to think about, relatedly:
"It is funny that we boycotted the 1980 Games [in Moscow] in support of Afghanistan, and now we're bombing Afghanistan." - Carl Lewis, winner of nine Olympic gold medals, accusing George Bush of exploiting the Athens Games [in 2004] for his own political advantage. (h/t Left I.)

And we're still there, and will continue to be there, if a future President Obama has his way.

And although the Dutch have reservations about their continued support of their role in the US-led Afghan mission, at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, The Netherlands [Wikipedia]
did not fully participate in the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in protest over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, but the Dutch athletes did boycott the Opening Ceremony, and the Olympic Flag was used in place of Netherlands' national flag at medal ceremonies.
The Dutch could probably do the same in Beijing this summer.
But as Sally Jenkins writes earlier this week [Washington Post]
Athletes are threatening to skip the Opening Ceremonies because they're afraid the environment of the host city will sicken them or compromise their medal chances, and distance runner Haile Gebrselassie dropped out of the marathon because the fumes are too heavy for him to run that distance.
Nothing about China's human rights abuses.

The torch is making its way around China before entering Beijing. It has passed through the recent earthquake-ravished areas. And yet, there are clandestine protests about the Chinese government's slowness in answering questions about the aftermath of the earthquake.

And here's what the prince said [my emphasis]:
the torch relay has become a target for protests, is not part of the original Olympic tradition and is extremely costly.
Costly to whom?

Jenkins [again, my emphasis] continues
So what is this Olympics really about? It's about 12 major corporations and their panting ambitions to tap into China's 1.3 billion consumers, the world's third-largest economy. Understand this: The International Olympic Committee is nothing more than a puppet for its corporate "partners," without whom there would be no Games. These major sponsors pay the IOC's bills for staging the Olympics to the tune of $7 billion per cycle. Without them, and their designs on the China market, Beijing probably would not have won the right to host the Summer Games.

Seven years ago, in controversially awarding the Games to the Chinese regime, the IOC assured us that a Beijing Games would be both beneficial and benevolent, and promote a more open society. Chinese officials, too, vowed that the Games would not only foster their economy but "enhance all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

The clouded air is just the most observable sign of the many unfulfilled promises since then. If the society has opened somewhat, there has also been a specific crackdown on dissidents as a direct result of the Olympics. Thousands of people have been rounded up and jailed for expressing dissent -- right now a man named Hu Jia is in a prison just outside Beijing for "inciting subversion" because he testified via Webcam before the European Union that the Chinese government wasn't living up to its Olympic commitments. Hu is ill with hepatitis B and undergoing "reform" in Chaobai prison, while his family is under constant surveillance. The crackdown continued this week with the jailing of several farmers, and efforts to censor the Olympic media. Amnesty International estimates that half a million people are being held without charges here.

Anyone who believed the Chinese government would use the Olympics as an opportunity to become a human rights beacon and environmental model was either softheaded, or lying. Capitalism is not the same thing as democracy. China's interest then and now was the consolidation of state power via economics. The government is merely behaving as it always has.

But the bad air here has shown the IOC and its commercial sponsors in an especially ugly and damning light. They have been conspicuous cowards in dealing with Chinese officials, and maybe even outright collaborators, on every issue from human rights to the environment to censorship. The silence of IOC President Jacques Rogge in the face of the continuing dissident sweeps amounts to complicity. "In view of my responsibilities, I have lost some of my freedom of speech," he said last week. Rogge's idea of a solution to the thorny problems of these Games is to hope "the magic" will take over once they begin.

Most disgraceful of all is the fact that six of the 12 worldwide Olympic partners are American companies. This has to heart-sicken any patriot. These companies will reap the full exposure of the Summer Games, swathing themselves in the flag, and rationalizing that their business is helping uplift the Chinese people. Don't buy it -- or them. You should know exactly who they are: General Electric (which owns NBC), Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald's, Kodak, and Johnson & Johnson. (The others are Canadian-based Manulife Financial; Lenovo, the Chinese personal computer maker; the French information technology services company Atos Origin; the Swiss watch manufacturer Omega; Panasonic; and Samsung.) When these acquiesced to the Chinese government's crackdown, and effectively accepted the censorship of the press during these Games, they fell into a special category of profiteers that Franklin Delano Roosevelt described in his "Four Freedoms" speech.

"We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests," Roosevelt said.

It's plain that the Chinese people have worked mightily to create a beautiful Beijing Games, from the elegantly manicured gardens to the whisked-clean streets, and that they are a source of immense national pride. No one could wish to injure that pride, and every one wishes them a successful Games. But the Olympics are not solely about the host, they are about all the participating nations, and the common goal of "preservation of human dignity." The moment it became apparent that the Beijing Olympics was causing a crackdown, and that basic Olympic values were being constricted rather than expanded, these Olympic partners should have spoken out, and threatened to withdraw if abuses didn't halt. When they didn't, it cast a permanent pall over these Games. Like the air here, the Olympic movement is struggling for a clean breath.


Other wealthy clients are cutting luxuries that they think their friends and relatives won’t notice, according to Mr. Del Gatto of Circa. At Circa’s midtown offices, he said, the seven consultation rooms have been busy with customers selling their precious gems. Some older couples, he said, are selling estate jewelry to help support their children who have lost Wall Street jobs. Bankers are paring down their collections of Patek Philippe watches. Wives from Greenwich and Scarsdale are selling 2-carat to 35-carat single-stone diamond rings. One recent client explained to Mr. Del Gatto that she was selling $2 million in diamonds she rarely wore, because her friends wouldn’t notice that they were gone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


DUTCHNEWS.NL [Tuesday 5 August 2008]
The illegal dumping of used electronic goods by the Netherlands and other Western countries is causing serious soil pollution in Ghana, according to tests carried out by the environmental organisation Greenpeace, reports ANP news service on Tuesday morning.

Large quantities of toxic materials, including lead and dioxins, have been found in the ground at scrap metal dumps in Ghana, says Greenpeace.

Almost 80% of the used electronic equipment that is sent to Ghana comes from west Europe and much of this is from the Dutch manufacturer Philips, the organisation says.

The dumping of used electronic devices is illegal but the Dutch system for collecting this waste is ‘as leaky as a colander’ Greenpeace campaign leader Kim Schoppink is quoted as saying by ANP.

Schoppink calls on Philips to make sure that all electronic equipment is recycled in the Netherlands.

In a reaction, a Philips spokeswoman told ANP that the company condemns the illegal transport of used electrical appliances which she says is outside its control.

The opposition Green Left party on Tuesday called on the cabinet to take a tougher stance on the dumping of electronic appliances. The party wants to know whether Greenpeace’s claim that only 15% of the annual 300,000 tonnes of the Netherlands’ electronic waste is recycled, reports ANP.

A report published in June by the by NVMP, which is responsible for the recycling system of electronic goods, concluded that 80% of the country’s used electronic equipment is recycled. Some 9% remains unaccounted for, the report said.

Willem Canneman, chairman of the NVMP told ANP that ‘the solution is not with producers but with the law’.

One solution could be to tackle the system for exporting second hand goods, he told ANP. ‘But that must be on a European level,’ he said.


LENIN'S TOMB [Solzhenitsyn and the right.]
But his usefulness to the American empire was limited, and definitively reached its sell-by date by 1990. Neoconservatives might have appreciated his critic of the degeneracy of the West and its failure to defend itself by being more God-fearing, but he was a Russian nationalist and this stance made him unpopular with some of Reagan's advisors, who presumably hoped to turn the country into an IMF basket-case. In fact, his argument against communism was by no means a defense of liberal universalism. Instead, he appealled to Americans to understand the 'West' as a distinct cultural entity which, while it had to be defended both against its communist opponents and its internal decadence, had little applicability to other societies. He wrote to Reagan to explain that once the putative threat from the USSR had gone, the US should pull out of every country it was involved in, from Central America to Africa to South-East Asia, and leave the world to its own devices. Once he was able to return to Russia in 1990, his austere conservative criticisms of the decadence of Western society, long articulated but generally glossed over by his supporters, came to the fore. He became rather unfashionable at this point. By the time he was castigating US military interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and defending the Putin administration, the American right had no more use for him.


THE RT REV'D GENE ROBINSON, bishop of New Hampshire, preached a sermon (listen here) on Sunday in St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow. (I've been there in 1999, and indeed it is a welcoming and inclusive parish.)

"It is going to end with the full inclusion of all God's people in God's Church," he told a full congregation. "I don't know when. It doesn't matter when. But I know it is going to be. None of us is on the selection committee. God is on a committee of one."

He added: "It is time for us to stop worrying so much about the Church. The Church is not ours to win or lose; the Church is God's.

"What a dangerous thing it is to put the Bible into the hands of repressed people. They might read it and believe it. They gave it to black slaves to make them docile, but they read it and became educated. They have given it to disabled people … gay and bisexual people.

"Who knows who they'll give it to next? But God will keep giving it to people too, until there's no more 'them', only 'us'."

Monday, August 4, 2008


If there is one consistent theme associated with US military involvement since World War II, it is the willingness of US forces to exploit the reasons for the intervention as a justification to kill large number of civilians, usually non-white ones. George Carlin addressed this subject with characteristic ruthlessness in a monologue about the First Persian Gulf War.

As the oft-paraphrased lyric of Moloko states, the faces change, but the game remains the same. And the game is tragically quite simple: substitute Rumsfeld for McNamara and McArthur, Iraqis and Afghans for Vietnamese and Koreans, Bush for Johnson and Truman, Fallujah for My Lai and Gogyegul. Over 58 years have elapsed since the beginning of the Korean War, a war that, incidentally, that has never formally ended, and the US military continues to conduct operations that treat the lives of civilians as acceptable collateral damage.

What are the reasons for the persistence of it? Of course, there are no doubt many, but recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan highlight an important one, and that is the unquestioning acceptance of perceived danger by US troops as a defense against the killings of civilians. A subjective sense of peril, no matter how implausible, irrational or excessive, is sufficient to relieve troops of any responsibility for their actions.

For example, as I recently observed in regard to Iraq, if a convoy erroneously travels down a civilian roadway near Baghdad airport, experiences a vehicle breakdown and encounters some Iraqi bank employees traveling to work as they had always done after passing through a high security checkpoint, then, they can kill them because they perceive themselves to be in danger, rendering it just an extremely unfortunate and tragic accident.
And this country is about to elect a "peace candidate" - the Democratic Barack Obama - as president.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Michael Colby - in a meandering post [Broadsides] observes
And about how new enthusiasts of the “eat local” movement are now hiring their own gardeners to come and plant gardens in their yards so that they can score one of those coveted “win-win” situations by both eating local and not getting dirty (or working, for that matter). Oh, Wendell Berry, you were right: “Movements kill everything.”
Does this mean that the patrons of the Progre$$ive Market in Burlington will hire out?