Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Patriotism-lite from Republican-lite Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's chief of staff, in a 2006 audio interview describing the national draft he's seeking. He expects "a lot" from a compulsory Civil Defense Corps for 18-25 year olds. Watch Obama at the end of the clip, in a speech during his 2008 campaign for change: "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." (H/T Undernews.)


From Ken Picard in Blurt/Seven Days

Seven Days just learned that one of the most renowned antinuclear activists is speaking in Vermont next week.
Needless to say, the activist/physician's work remains far from completed. In fact, she calls our current age "the most dangerous age ever." Dr. Caldicott's talks are compelling, insightful and devastatingly on-target.
Indeed, beyond the doom and gloom, she offers something in all too short supply these days: hope.

The Nobel-Prize-nominated scientist and activist speaks at Middlebury College's Bicentennial Hall at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, then later that day at the Barnes & Noble in South Burlington. The following day, Dr. Caldicott signs books and meets the public at UVM's Davis Center bookstore from 4 to 5 p.m., followed by a talk in the Grand Maple Ballroom. On Thursday, April 9, Caldicott will be in Montpelier and Brattleboro, locations TBA. Be sure to catch one of these talks!

COMMENT: Not only does Dr Caldicott bring hope in these dark days, but also a challenge for Vermonters to wake up!


Coverage from Radio Netherlands Worldwide

RNW Flickr photostream

"Optimism" reigned...

Sayed Rohullah Yasir is visiting all the conferences on Afghanistan for Deutsche Welle. As a result, he has come to The Hague. Four years ago, Mr Rohullah left his home country to live in Germany. Since then he has travelled the world. Something he could once only dream of. He was one of the first journalists to enter the special press room at The Hague... and RNW followed him...

Arrival of Clinton and Karzai.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


More than 35,000 marched through London.


Rutland Herald

29 March 2009

Douglas driven by the politics

Gov. James Douglas has as much right to veto a bill as the Supreme Court has to declare a law unconstitutional. His power to veto a bill is no less legitimate than the power of the Legislature to pass a bill.

So when Douglas announced last week that he would veto the same-sex marriage bill, should legislators pass it, supporters of the bill faced a stark constitutional reality. The people's representatives were ready to pass the bill, but the people's governor was ready to reject it.

What was disconcerting to supporters was the confusion obscuring Douglas's justification. He could have stepped up and explained his opposition based on the substance of the bill. Instead, he offered a political justification that made no sense and seemed to have been hatched out of raw political calculation.

He said he planned to veto the bill 1) because he believed marriage ought to be limited to heterosexual couples, and 2) because he thought the bill was a distraction from more important business.

Legislators have found themselves in the challenging position of having to articulate the reasons they support or oppose the bill. Opponents have articulated their reasons clearly.

One of the chief arguments is that marriage is meant to foster procreation and the nurturing of children and that heterosexual couples are better suited to that job than gay or lesbian couples. This argument won the support of a Superior Court judge a decade ago before it was rejected by the Vermont Supreme Court.

Others have argued that it is not right to tinker with the language of marriage or traditions that are the foundations of a stable society. Others oppose the bill on the basis of conscience and the moral dictates of religion.

Those who in good conscience hold these views deserve our respect. In the atmosphere of controversy surrounding these issues, it is not easy to take a forthright stand.

But Douglas ducked this discussion. He opposes. He let it go at that. Instead, he argued that the bill was a distraction. This argument is bogus.

It is bogus because by promising to veto the bill Douglas has done nothing to quell the distraction. He has magnified it. Everyone knows that the House will have to summon 100 votes to override his veto, and the question of whether House leaders will succeed in doing so will be a dominant story of this session. If he wanted to avoid distraction, he could have let the House go about its business and give the Legislature several distraction-free weeks before lowering the boom with his veto.

So if his political argument is bogus, why would he say these things? The answer is politics. Because he has promised a veto, Republicans can say that the attempt to push the bill toward passage is a costly distraction and that it is the fault of the Democrats. Further, Douglas has given aid and comfort to Republicans who had more or less been outfoxed on the issue by the Democratic leadership, who had put the bill on a glide path toward victory.

Politics explains Douglas's action, but the fate of the bill will rest on the merits of the case for marriage equality. Supporters of the bill now face the challenge of making a case so compelling that wavering legislators will feel justified in voting against the governor.

The bill is now before the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of the committee, Rep. William Lippert, may find it useful to bring before his committee witnesses who will describe in clear, human terms the costs of inequality. There are devoted couples who have had to live with the limitations inherent in civil unions. There are others who have been married in Massachusetts and who can describe the difference between civil union and marriage.

The most compelling argument in favor of same-sex marriage has always been the love and commitment of gay and lesbian couples. Humanity trumps ideology. Members of the House are now approaching a political test made all the more challenging by the governor's announcement. They ought to keep in mind that it is no distraction to work toward the fulfillment of the Constitution's promise of equal rights for all.


I'm sharing this post submitted to the local Front Porch Neighborhood Forums. It is a detailed, forthright, excellent analysis by State Rep. David Zuckerman of Burlington of the differences between civil unions and marriage (and why this marriage equality bill should be passed). The VT House will vote on its own marriage equality bill this coming week.

By David Zuckerman, State Representative - Chittenden-3-4, Germain St,
Fri, 27 March 2009

Thank you to those who have contacted me regarding the marriage issue. As some may know...I have been working for this issue since the Civil Union discussion. At that time we knew we were making huge strides forward for equality, but also that there were several issues with a separate classification that inherantly made civil unions less than marriage.

Sorry for the long posting, but the importance of this issue is too great. Please feel free to send this to anyone you know and/or post this on other forums, facebook, or wherever you feel it would be appropriate.

I am writing this post to give a couple of the actual legal differences that have become apparent. There are some that will immediately be impacted by this change and others that will require federal action. But I wanted to make sure folks understood that this change will have an immediate legal impact for many in the Gay and Lesbian community.

There are also the non-legal issues of stigmatism etc. that come with a separate law. I will address those as well.

First...legal issues. Two primary areas apply.

1) A same sex couple in a civil union in Vermont is not recognized by the laws of the State of NY or Massachusettes (they are recognized by the laws of NH). What this means is that a Vermonter who works in NY or Mass does not automatically have the benefits that are provided by their employer conveyed to their spouse. By voting for marriage we would end this unequal treatment that does not apply to currently married heterosexual couples in Vermont under the same working scenario.

2) There are large national companies that are self insured (health insurance). Many of them have employees in many of the 50 states. H&R block could be a typical example, although I do not know their specific policy. Under self insurance plans, marriages are automatically recognized, whereas, it takes specific legal action (internally) by those companies to make sure their self insurance plan covers their employees partners who are recognized through a civil union. For many of these companies this is too small a group (they might have 20,000 employees nationally and only a handful or two in Vermont) to even know they are being excluded. For them to then take the additional effort to deal with the legal issues is unlikely. There would be actual costs associated with changing their plans even though the change would ultimately be negligible as far as their long term costs. If/when we recognize these unions as marriages we remove this obstacle to equality.

There are many federal benefits (approximately 1400) as well as "portability" issues that are related to civil unions and DOMA (the defense of marriage act). While civil unions are recognized in NH and a couple of other states, marriage would be recognized in more states. If the Obama adminstration fulfills its campaign promise to recind the federal DOMA legislation and we have (by then) changed our law from civil unions to marriage then great steps will have been made to get towards full legal equality.

As for the stigma...this is something that many live with everyday. When an individual on the GL community is asked by someone "are you married?" They either need to lie/bend the truth, or explain that no...they are recognized by government as legally something different. This can have tremendous implications for individuals who are living in communities that may not be as accepting/embracing as Burlington (Where there are still issues as well). In many smaller communities people's private lives are whispered about (relating to this and many other things I might add), as folks are less anonymous.

As I spoke with one legislator today (I will use "they" to keep their identity private) they indicated that it would clearly be difficult for one of their constituents to regularly eat out at the restaurant in their town with their partner. That they believe that person probably comes to Burlington to eat out as it is not an issue here where it would be in their town. Passing marriage legislation will not change some of those feelings of some members of that persons community. But over time, the stigma's and stereotypes will diminish more rapidly than they will if we do not take this step forward to recognize the value of every loving couple.

I will be working diligently in every spare moment I have (between committee hearings on how to raise revenue to reduce the draconian cuts proposed in the budget and between floor votes on Yankee decommisioning etc.) to discuss these issues with my undecided and internally struggling colleagues. There are still a handful of Democrats and a handful of Republicans who I believe can be persuaded. In discussions just today, I know of three Republicans who are deeply challenged by this issue and their upbringing, the proportion of the messages they have received from their constituents, and the presentation of the facts above.

9 years ago when we passed civil unions I was one of 22 votes for a marriage amendment. We have clearly progressed a very long way since then. We know we have more than 75 votes, and we believe we are close to the veto proof 100. In 2000, I watched legislators struggle up until the day of the vote, and we had a few positive surprises. I am hopeful that we can get that same fortune (through hard work) this time.

Throughout history, the rights of the minority would rarely have been confered by a vote of the majority in the day. It was only through the courage of political leaders, or through the courts that we have made such progress. I am hopeful that such courage will be displayed when we vote next week. But I urge anyone who supports this legislation to contact your friends across the state to get positive calls to their legislators (even supportive ones), and to contact the Governors office http://governor.vermont.gov/contact.html or 802 828-3333 (toll-free in VT only: 800 649-6825) and ask him to please reconsider vetoing the bill even if we do not get to 100 votes for equality.

Thank you-
Rep. David Zuckeman

PS...please contact me at davidz@together.net or dzuckerman@leg.state.vt.us for more information or go to the freedom to marry website at http://www.vtfreetomarry.org for more daily updates.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Radio Netherlands Worldwide:- Amsterdam aims to make virtually all the vehicles in the city electric by 2040. The 'Amsterdam Electric' scheme was launched today by the city's environment alderman Marijke Vos, in a bid to cut exhaust emissions. The goal is to have 200,000 battery-driven vehicles in Amsterdam in 30 years' time.

The city council plans to realise 200 charging stations by 2012, with the first of them ready by the summer this year. It proposes to introduce financial incentives for people to buy electric cars. Special parking spaces will also be reserved for electric vehicles. Owners will be able to park at a reduced fee, and will be given priority when applying for residents' parking permits. At present there is a five-year waiting list for a permit in the centre of Amsterdam; without one, motorists pay up to five euros an hour to park.

According to the plan launched today by the Green Left party alderman, the tourist boats that ply Amsterdam's 17th-century canals will also switch to electricity in the coming years. The council promises to set an example by purchasing electric vehicles for its own fleet.

Photo: 100% electric and plastic car, the Dutch-made QUICC! DiVa

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Thanks to Toujoursdan for highlighting findings in a report (PDF) about LGBT poverty from the Williams Institute of the UCLA Law School:

After adjusting for a range of family characteristics that help explain poverty, gay and lesbian couple families are significantly more likely to be poor than are heterosexual married couple families.

+ Notably, lesbian couples and their families are much more likely to be poor than heterosexual couples and their families.

+ Children in gay and lesbian couple households have poverty rates twice those of children in heterosexual married couple households.

+ Within the LGB population, several groups are much more likely to be poor than others. African American people in same-sex couples and same-sex couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor than white or urban same-sex couples.

+ While a small percentage of all families receive government cash supports intended for poor and low-income families, we find that gay and lesbian individuals and couples are more likely to receive these supports than are heterosexuals.

Thanks also to Counterlight

I've always felt that "affluent gays" was a big canard, up there with "rich Jews." The rich Palm Springs circuit party crowd is a very visible, but tiny minority of the LGBT population. Most well paid LGBT professionals are in medicine and technology. High tech companies are usually very gay friendly because that's where a lot of their talent comes from. Most other gay men, especially the young, are in famously low wage jobs provided by retail, hospitality, restaurants, and arts and entertainment. And this has always been true.

Lesbians face a double whammy of the wage discrimination against women built into the economy, and homophobic prejudice.

Those who face the worst employment discrimination are transexuals. So many once turned to prostitution because there was no other work. Some businesses and professions are beginning to open up very slowly and reluctantly, but it is still incredibly difficult for them.

Proponents and opponents of Vermont's gay marriage bill have used the economy in their arguments. The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility have both supported its passage. Governor Jim Douglas and opponents of the bill have scolded Vermont lawmakers for even considering it (read: wasting precious time and money). Dissing LBGTs as non-persons without proper rights - as Douglas has done with a terrific force - and saying the economy should receive priority just doesn't cut it. Loving and caring Vermont LBGT families are having just as hard a time surviving in Vermont as their hetero counterparts. Also, as toujoursdan notes in a comment over at Counterlight, the religious right have used the myth of gay affluence to argue that LGBTs don't need civil rights protections or marriage equality. The opponents - especially the anti-government folks - may attempt to use the UCLA report as ammo against the bill, that Vermont doesn't need that added burden or responsibility to help "them." With blinders on, the opponents fail to realise that, as the report points out, they would be continuing systemic homophobia and class discrimination in our cities and towns, and it's not a good thing to live in state that disregards fundamental human rights of Vermonters to such basic needs as healthcare, housing, education, social security and dignified work.

Very relatedly, connecting equal marriage rights to struggles of all Vermont families, a new advertisement from Vermont Freedom to Marry:

Cross-posted at Antemedius.


“They would make us go first, so if any fighters shot at them the bullets would hit us, not them,” said 14-year-old Al’a al-Attar.

Clancy Chassay at the Guardian investigates claims from three brothers that the Israeli military used them as human shields during the invasion of Gaza. Part One of Three. Watch Part Two and Part Three.


(Cross-posted on Antemedius.)

In a presser yesterday Gov. Jim Douglas announced that he will veto S. 115, the marriage equality bill passed on Monday this week by the Vermont Senate. The WPTZ video is here. The process is still incomplete; the Vermont House is holding hearings and will probably vote on its own bill next week.

Shay Totten, political columnist for the Burlington alternative weekly Seven Days has been following post-vote developments.

He stands passionately for very few things, and many find it odd that he would take such a stand when even some leaders in his party — such as House Minority Leader Patti Komline (R-Dorset) — support it.

She's taken plenty of heat for it, but she firmly believes the GOP in Vermont shouldn't be on the wrong side of history on this one, or any other issue around civil rights. So has Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) who supported the measure in the Senate Judiciary Committee and again on the Senate floor.

For weeks Douglas has emphatically stated he does not support same-sex marriage and believes it a distraction for lawmakers. He'd rather see them tackling economic issues, rather than issues of civil rights, er, same-sex marriage. However, he's been cagey on if he'd veto the bill, or let it go into law without his signature. No longer.

What is clear is that Douglas is in the minority when it comes to Vermont's elected officials when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Even a majority of Vermont's Congressional delegation supports same-sex marriage. Rep. Peter Welch (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) are in favor, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) is mum on the issue, saying he doesn't want to involve himself with the Legislature.

"While the question of whether Vermont should legalize gay marriage is a state issue, Congressman Welch does personally support legalizing gay marriage," said Paul Heintz, Welch's spokesman.

"Senator Sanders has long believed marriage is a matter of state, not federal, law. Personally, he believes in marriage equality," said Michael Briggs, Sanders' spokesman.

Unlike Douglas, and his fellow DC delegates, Leahy doesn't want his opinion to sway lawmakers' votes.

"He believes Vermont's Legislature and Governor are empowered to decide this, as the Vermont Supreme Court has clearly ruled," said David Carle, Leahy's spokesman. "His practice has always been not to tell the Vermont Legislature what it should or should not do."

The mayor of Vermont's largest city — Progressive Bob Kiss — is also weighing in on the issue and asking city councilor to join him in support of same-sex marriage. He's drafted a letter calling on Chittenden County lawmakers and the guv to back the bill. May be too late on this one.

A draft version of the letter reads:
The legislation now under consideration by the Legislature to achieve marriage equality is past due. Nine years ago Vermont led the nation when it legalized civil unions for same-sex couples. Yet we continue to deny the right of marriage – for our friends, family members and constituents – to same-sex couples. Our experience in Vermont with civil unions confirms that our best and most important decisions are based on a long of history of commitment to fairness, equality, individual liberties, and civil rights.

We have an opportunity to fulfill these principles and enact real change for all the people of Vermont by passing a same-sex marriage law. We urge you all to act now and support civil marriage rights in the State of Vermont for same sex couples.
The Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force is holding a rally Friday morning at the Statehouse during the time set aside for Gov. Douglas to have a legislative open door inside his ceremonial office under the Golden Dome. The open door event starts at 9 a.m.

I have also heard that newly elected Burlington city councilor, Marissa Caldwell, is organising on Facebook a sit-in rally on Saturday in front of the governor's Middlebury residence. Here's an idea: have two straight married couples knock on the governor's door with bagels, cream cheese and coffee on a tray and invite Gov. Jim to come out for an informal brunch and chat with Vermont's citizens! There's still time for history to be made!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


... by the cartel of financial institutions.

If you haven't read the Rolling Stone article Big Takeover by Matt Taibbi.

It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. no empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.



Starting on 31 March, Rijksmuseum in collaboration with the Dutch archives service Nationaal Archief will exhibit various documents related to the establishment of the Dutch colony New Netherland and the trading post New Amsterdam – which later became New York City – at the beginning of the 17th century. One of the highlights of the exhibition Return to Manhattan (Weerzien met Manhattan) is undoubtedly Nationaal Archief’s Schaghenbrief letter from 1626. One of the earliest documents to mention the purchase of Manhattan, the island on which New Netherland was established, the Schaghenbrief letter is not only evidence of the agreement concluded between the local population and the Dutch in 1626, but also of the first children born to the pioneers in the Dutch colony. Henry Hudson’s discovery of Manhattan Island 400 years ago, as an explorer working for the Dutch East India Company (VOC), will be celebrated this year.

The exhibition also includes the oldest map to show Manhattan as an island (1614) and the famous cityscape of New Amsterdam by Johannes Vingboons from circa 1665. In addition to these unique historical documents from Nationaal Archief, two 17th-century prints of an indigenous man and woman by Wenceslaus Hollar will be on display, as well as part of the famous Blaeu Atlas from the collection of the Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap (Royal Antiquarian Society).


Speaking to the Soul - Daily Reading for March 25 • The Annunciation

Humble Mary

A humble person is one who, like the humble Mary, says, “The Powerful One has done great things in me.” Each of us has an individual greatness. God would not be our author if we were something worthless. You and I and all of us are worth very much, because we are creatures of God, and God has prodigally given his wonderful gifts to every person. And so the church values human beings and contends for their rights, for their freedom, for their dignity. That is an authentic church endeavor. While human rights are violated, while there are arbitrary arrests, while there are tortures, the church considers itself persecuted, it feels troubled, because the church values human beings and cannot tolerate that an image of God be trampled by persons that become brutalized by trampling on others. The church wants to make that image beautiful. . . .

Faith consists in accepting God
without asking him to account for things
according to our standard.
Faith consists in reacting before God as Mary did:
I don’t understand it, Lord,
but let it be done in me according to your word.

From The Violence of Love by Oscar Romero, Copyright 2007 by Plough Publishing House. An e-book found at http://www.plough.com/ebooks/pdfs/ViolenceOfLove.pdf

Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: Annunciation, c. 1480 by Tilman Riemenschneider


Dober: 515
Lesser-Goldsmith: 425

I don't even live in Ward 7, but if I did, I would have very begrudgingly voted for neo-liberal mainstream Democrat Eli Lesser-Goldsmith. Adam Silverman/Free Press misspelled Eli's surname (laziness, bad copy editing, again).

True to form, everyone has an opinion (I don't have a strong one), and you can read 'em at BurlingtonPol.

Monday, March 23, 2009


History was made today.

Vermont Public Radio:-- The Vermont Senate voted 26-to-four on Monday to approve a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

Supporters said the legislation is needed to provide same-sex couples with all the legal rights and privileges that heterosexual couples have.

If the bill becomes law, Vermont would become the first state in the country to adopt same-sex marriage without a court ordering it.

The legislation would go into effect at the beginning of September, and after that date, civil unions would no longer be available to same-sex couples.

Any civil unions issued over the last nine years would continue to be recognized by the state and civil union couples would have the option of getting a marriage license.

Windsor Senator John Campbell urged his colleagues to support the bill. Campbell said the time has come for Vermont to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples:

"To me I look at what marriage is is a commitment. It's about love. It's about if you choose to raise a family, how you raise your children. Marriage, to me, should be inclusive."

Campbell said he was dismayed that some opponents of the bill described same-sex couples as being immoral:

(Campbell) "And even one person went so far to say those people should be arrested because that lifestyle should be criminal. You know who those they people are? They are our policemen. They are our firefighters. They're teachers; they're garbagemen; they're the guy who plows the street. They are our children, our sisters, our brothers. That's what they are. They are human beings and as such and as it's said in this bill they should be treated equally."

An effort to place this issue in a nonbinding statewide referendum was defeated by a vote of 19-11.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to begin its review of the bill on Tuesday. The legislation could be on the House floor for a vote by the end of next week.

Vermonters: For many senators this was a difficult vote. Go here to find a list of senators to thank.

Cross-posted at Antemedius.



FAIRFIELD/WILTON - Bus 650, a rickety old vehicle with a barely attached ceiling and crusted snot on the brown upholstery of the seats, struggles with the rolling hills in this park-like upscale residential area in Connecticut. This is where several employees of insurance giant AIG reside - the ones who received millions of dollars in bonuses even after AIG had to be rescued with a government bailout.

The bus's engine coughs, and driver Bill – a golden eagle and 'USA' in thickly embroidered letters on his cap – puts his foot down on the gas pedal. The passengers stare out of the dirty windows at the lavish homes outside. So this is where they live.

(Photo: Chantal Heijnen.)


Sunday, March 22, 2009



On this second day of Spring, 2009, I offer a poem written by my most favourite 20th century poet, Denise Levertov, whom I discovered when I was in high school.

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
—we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Phyllis Bennis takes a sober look at what happened in a TRNN interview with Paul Jay.

Additional background here.

Also, McClatchy on Israeli Jihad


Royalblog News Summary

The severed head of King Badu Bonsu II is going home to Ghana, around 170 years after it was hacked off in retaliation for the slayings of two Dutch emissaries whose skulls were hung from the tribal leader's throne.

Bonsu's head was discovered last year in a jar of formaldehyde at the Leiden University Medical Center's anatomical collection. Ghana, when informed about the discovery, asked for it to be returned and the Dutch government asked the hospital to cooperate.
The Dutch established trading and slave posts in Ghana in the late 1500s, and remained involved in the country _ then known in Europe as the Gold Coast _ until late in the 19th century.

Friday, March 20, 2009



The same-sex marriage bill is headed to the Vermont Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously today — 5 to 0 — to advance the bill out of committee.

Vermont Freedom to Marry is urging supporters to call their senators, and be present when the Senate debates and votes on the bill. That's expected to happen on Monday at 3 p.m.

Will Gov. Douglas veto the bill, it passes the House and Senate? I heard him say today on Vermont Edition that he did not support it. He made that idiotic argument that discounts the civil rights of all - including LBGT folk - as being less important than what he thinks Vermonters really care about: jobs and the economy.


Daily Reading for March 20 • Feast of St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687

Always keep God’s peace and love among you, and when you have to seek guidance about your affairs, take great care to be of one mind. Live in mutual good-will also with Christ’s other servants, and do not despise Christians who come to you for hospitality, but see that you welcome them, give them accommodation, and send them on their way with friendship and kindness.

Cuthbert’s last words, quoted in A Holy Island Prayer Book: Morning, Midday, and Evening Prayer by Ray Simpson. Copyright © 2002 Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

(From Speaking to the Soul.)

I would change St Cuthbert's words slightly to read, "and do not despise any persons who come to you for hospitality..."

Photo: St Cuthbert on Holy Island, by Powell of Whitefriars, St Cuthbert's Church, Great Salkeld, Cumbria.


From the collections of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam, the documents centre for the city - fascinating 1930s colour separation images by Bernard F. Eilers. Three samples of over 300 photos:


Albert Heijn grocery store, Kalverstraat 84

De Bijenkorf department store, Dam Square, 1937.


The now infamous Vijzelgracht, a street in downtown Amsterdam where entire houses are sinking into the ground due to a series of major screw-ups in digging the new North-South metro line, was a sorry sight. Families were evacuated and their houses boarded up and declared ‘unfit to live in’.

Across the street, local artist Peter Doeswijk who lives and works on the Vijzelgracht came up with a cultural solution to poster up the boarded houses and hide the inevitable graffiti: by using famous artworks of Dutch Masters (Frans Hals, Vermeer and the likes). He has had other poster exhibitions on the Vijzelgracht during the actual construction and without his efforts, the street, which boasts famous manors such as the one of the Maison Descartes (French institute) would look even worse than it sounds.

Vijzelgracht photos taken by the Orangemaster.

Thanks to Prog Gold for the links to the Eiler's photos.


UPDATE: Video: Alexander and Máxima today at MADD Day 2009

Today is the anniversary of the deaths of two Dutch queens. Queen Juliana died five years ago on 20th March. Her grandmother queen Emma died 70 years before. (see the photo on left taken at Soestdijk, soooo long ago!).

Today is also the start of a two-day event, Make a Difference Day, a program promoting volunteerism in The Netherlands. Members of the Dutch royal family will take part in MADD at various social service agencies throughout the land.

Last year Queen Beatrix made apple pies for volunteers at a nature center (photo at right). Tomorrow she will put her sculpting talents to work and will help the visually impaired create art at a center in Zeist.

I remember Juliana saying that if she had not been queen, she would have liked to have been a social worker. What a wonderful way for Beatrix to honour the exuberant spirit of her mother.

Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes. In the US, there was a MADD last October. And Michelle Obama dished out mushroom risotto for the homeless at a soup kitchen earlier this month and promised she'd be back to help. The Dutch royals do the same and quietly return to volunteer, without fanfare, when the cameras are not around.

(Photos are copyrighted & courtesy of BV Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau ANP.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Ten Percent

If you take a one second silence for every casualty of the Iraq invasion (on all sides) you will be silent for 15 days, 7 hours, 58 minutes & 7 seconds. You only get to the non-Iraq casualties in the sixth hour of the sixteenth day.

Last year as part of the blogswarm I wrote- Withdrawal, Reparations, Prosecutions. So what d’you reckon?

Withdrawal- Nope, unless you figure 50,000 troops are negligible and the various get out clauses won’t be exploited by the Pentagon or Obama.

Reparations- Sorry, the financial sector got all your cash for generations to come, Iraqis may be able to sell some of the bullets shot at them for (radioactive) scrap.

Prosecutions- Sorry folks but Nuremberg happened because of a victorious allied occupation, after all it excluded European colonialism and the American use of the atomic bomb. So unless the coalition countries are invaded and subjugated by some other power allied with Iraq, seems human society isn’t able to enact justice where the ruling classes are concerned, it’s all just fine words. Keep pushing of course, we may yet become civilised. Still, you can book some of the main criminals for several (hundred) thousands to give you a speech.

Muntazer al-Zaidi is now in jail for 3 years after being beaten and tortured, he threw his shoes at George Bush, Bush laughed it off, both the act and and I am sure the knowledge of al-Zaidi’s abuse and coming years in prison, he likes that kind of thing. Our media continues to shy away from calling torture torture and the few mea culpas over pimping the lies that led to war have not changed their behaviour significantly, one consequence of this is a likely attack on Iraq’s neighbour Iran and a spreading war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The humanitarian disaster in Somalia goes almost unmentioned as does the particular involvement of the US. Also unmentioned mostly is the Neocon/Zionist axis, but perhaps it is coming into the open a little more.

Mostly I think we are in the invidious position of still many people do not regard this supreme crime as a crime- nationalism, militarism and tribalism remain unexamined, and as such many see no need to stop it, make recompense and punish the guilty. Until that changes we are in for much more bloodshed, empire is a recidivist and the pantry is bare.


Guardian (19/03/09)

Striking testimony has emerged from Israeli soldiers involved in the Gaza war in which they describe shooting unarmed civilians, sometimes under orders from their officers.

One soldier described how an Israeli sniper shot dead a Palestinian mother and her two children, adding that fellow troops believed the lives of Palestinians were "very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers".

The testimony, published in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz today, gives a rare insight into how Israeli soldiers fought the war on the ground; reinforces Palestinian accounts of disproportionate Israeli force; and sharply contradicts the Israeli military's official version of events.


Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

The squad leader said: "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

It has been rare for Israeli soldiers to speak out about the killing of Palestinian civilians in the December war on the Gaza Strip. More soldiers' testimonies will be published in Haaretz over the coming days.

Analysis by Amos Harel in Haaretz:

Can Israel dismiss its own troops' stories from Gaza?

The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason that they have no reason to. If you read the transcript that will appear in Haaretz Friday, you will not find any judgment or boasting. This is what the soldiers, from their point of view, saw in Gaza. There is a continuity of testimony from different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture.

The IDF will do everyone, and most of all itself, a big favor if it takes these soldiers and allegations seriously and investigates itself in depth. When statements came only from Palestinian witnesses or "the hostile press," it was possible to dismiss them as propaganda that served the enemy. But what can be done when the soldiers themselves tell the story?
If the IDF really never heard about these incidents, the reasonable assumption is that it did not want to know. The soldiers describe the reality in combat units, from the level of company commander down. In the debriefings, the participants usually include company commanders up. It seems that except for isolated incidents, the rule is "you don't ask, we won't tell."

(Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)


Michael Hudson in Counterpunch
There are two questions that one always must ask when a political operation is being launched. First, qui bono -- who benefits? And second, why now? In my experience, timing almost always is the key to figuring out the dynamics at work.

Regarding qui bono, what does [sic] Sen. Schumer, Rep. Frank, Pres. Obama and other Wall Street sponsors gain from this public outcry? For starters, it depicts them as hard taskmasters of the banking and financial sector, not its lobbyists scurrying to execute one giveaway after another. So the AIG kerfuffle has muddied the water about where their political loyalties really lie. It enables them to strike a misleading pose – and hence to pose as “honest brokers” next time they dishonestly give away the next few trillion dollars to their major sponsors and campaign contributors.

Regarding the timing, I think I have answered that above. The uproar about AIG bonuses has effectively distracted attention from the AIG counterparties who received the $183 billion in Treasury giveaways. The “final” sum to be given to its counterparties has been rumored to be $250 billion, do Sen. Schumer, Rep. Frank and Pres. Obama still have a lot more work to do for Wall Street in the coming year or so.

To succeed in this work – while mitigating the public outrage already rising against the bad bailouts – they need to strike precisely the pose that they’re striking now. It is an exercise in deception.

The moral should be: The larger the crocodile tears shed over giving bonuses to AIG individuals (who seem to be largely on the healthy, bona fide insurance side of AIG’s business, not its hedge-fund Ponzi-scheme racket), the more they will distract public attention from the $180 billion giveaway, and the better they can position themselves to give away yet more government money (Treasury bonds and Federal Reserve deposits) to their favorite financial charities.


Montreal Gazette

Actress Natasha Richardson, the wife of actor Liam Neeson and part of the Redgrave acting dynasty, has died after suffering a head injury while skiing this week in Quebec, a family spokesman said Wednesday.

"Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time," Los Angeles-based spokesman Alan Nierob said in a statement.

Neeson was at her bedside after accompanying her on the flight from Canada Tuesday, as was her mother, legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave.


Film info

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


UPDATE: GREEN MOUNTAIN DAILY - Marriage Equality: Images from the Statehouse


Day 3 of Senate Judiciary Hearings


In the run-up to tonight's public hearing, from 6:00 - 8:30pm at the State House, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from clergy across the religious spectrum regarding their perspective on the marriage debate. Video footage of the hearing is available on our website.

Episcopal Priest David Hall read a statement on behalf of The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont. Bishop Ely was unable to attend because he was out of state. Through Rev. Hall, Bishop Ely testified that S.115 "has the possibility to strengthen our understanding and appreciation of marriage as we witness the love and fidelity of gay and lesbian couples alongside that of straight couples."


Yoko Ono and John Lennon in room 902 of the Amsterdam Hilton. Photo Nico Koster

NRC/international:-- The Amsterdam Hilton is opening up to the public the bedroom where John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in 1969 as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of their famous "bed-in for peace".

In all fairness, the Lennon bedroom in the Amsterdam Hilton has always been available to the public. At a price: a one-night stay costs 1,750 euros. But on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the "bed-in", the hotel has decided to relax its policy. Beatles fans can visit the suite - though not to stay in - from March 21 to 29 when a number of Lennon-related events will be taking place.

Closer to home - Imagine: John & Yoko's pacifist anthem: a second bed-in was held at The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, from May 26 to June 2, 1969. (Hilarious 1969 CBC interview with John & Yoko here.) To commemorate the event, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts , in collaboration with Yoko Ono, has curated an exhibition which will run from April 2 to June 21, 2009.


Today, Queen Beatrix will open the 60th jubilee edition at De Keukenhof, the largest and most beautiful garden in the world.

This year"s theme is "USA - New Amsterdam - New York - 400," and a contingent of New Yorkers has gone to Holland as part of a a yearlong celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor in 1609 aboard the Half Moon. There's a tribute included in the Keukenhof display, a likeness of the Statue of Liberty made out of 51,000 tulips!

Queen Beatrix today at Keukenhof.
Photo courtesy © PPE Agency/Buys.

UPDATED: More of today's photos here.

The photo (courtesy Keukenhof) below shows tulips asleep in their beds; the bulbs were planted last October.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Yesterday on Democracy Now! in its news recap:-- The failed insurance giant AIG is preparing to pay out $450 million in bonuses to top executives and other employees despite receiving a $173 billion government bailout.
On Sunday, Lawrence Summers, the director of the White House National Economic Council, described the bonuses as outrageous, but he said the bonuses are part of a contract
Lawrence Summers: “We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system.”
Eli Stephens writes, Funny how that objection to abrogating contracts and the "very, very destabilizing consequences" doesn't come up when the contracts being abrogated are those with GM and Ford workers, or San Francisco Chronicle workers, or anyplace else where it's the workers who are suffering. Au contraire, it's precisely those cases where members of Congress actively call for the abrogation of contracts.

Just like "freedom of speech" belongs to those who own the presses and the airwaves, the "law" belongs to those who own the country. For the rest of us, it's a thin layer of ice which can be shattered at any moment.

On the car radio, I've listened to some of these call-in programs (c.f. "On Point"), and surely people are outraged, but the discussion doesn't go beyond that.

Richard Estes, telling it like it really is and what we might expect, Allow me to translate this for you: everything is going according to plan, right down to the faux outrage expressed by Geithner and Summers. Summers' reliance upon pre-existing contracts to justify inaction is particularly mendacious.
We are entering the early stages of this process, with capital retaining as many privileges as possible, despite the catastrophic failure of those who managed it, while the workers who have already been victimized, are called upon to sacrifice, even those with the contractual protections commonly utilized by bankers and investors. Will we eventually rebel? There is no sign of it. But if we do, how will Obama respond? Well, the Pentagon is already anticipating the deployment of troops to deal with domestic unrest.

Monday, March 16, 2009


"I was taken to another room where I was made to stand on tiptoes for about two hours during questioning. Approximately thirteen persons were in the room. These included the head interrogator (a man) and two female interrogators, plus about ten muscle guys wearing masks. I think they were all Americans. From time to time one of the muscle guys would punch me in the chest and stomach. Here cold water from buckets was thrown onto me for about forty minutes. Not constantly as it took time to refill the buckets. After which I would be taken back to the interrogation room.

"On one occasion during the interrogation I was offered water to drink, when I refused I was again taken to another room where I was made to lie [on] the floor with three persons holding me down. A tube was inserted into my anus and water poured inside. Afterwards I wanted to go to the toilet as I had a feeling as if I had diarrhoea. No toilet access was provided until four hours later when I was given a bucket to use. Whenever I was returned to my cell I was always kept in the standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head." New York Review of Books- US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites
By Mark Danner
ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody by the International Committee of the Red Cross

"We need to get to the bottom of what happened—and why—so we make sure it never happens again."
Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee


UPDATE: Michael Colby will be on the Mark Johnson program tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. EDT.
Michael Colby emailed me this morning to say that he's appearing on Mark Johnson's radio call-in program tomorrow, Tuesday 17 March. Tune in on WDEV AM 550 or FM 96.1 or listen to the live stream during the show's 9-11 a.m. time slot. Alternatively, you can listen later to the podcast.

While residents of the Queen City get their panties in an uproar over Burlington city council president's calling the cops on two elected councilors at last Thursday's city council meeting, what seems to be lost on residents and provoking very little discussion is the landmark ruling last week by the Vermont Supreme Court. Charges were dropped against Michael and his cohort Boots Wardinski for interrupting a speech given by John Negroponte at his son's graduation from St Johnsbury Academy (VT) in June, 2006.

Photo credit: AP/Toby Talbot.


John Odum writes a remarkably astute - and not very benign - diary on Green Mountain Daily concerning the continuing discussions surrounding the contrariness of last week's Burlington City Council meeting:-- In any event, it should be plain that ten minutes of Roberts-rules-neener-neenerisms before an incompetent Chair do not merit that Chair compounding his failure by calling the police. Such a decision was not simply ridiculous, it was unethical. So why are so many self-identifying lefties on the internet so eagerly defending the action (and, in the process - or as part of the process - so badly mischaracterizing the supposed transgressions of a few City Councilors)?

It's all Partisan Derangement Syndrome. Otherwise sensible people getting caught up in the mass hysteria of partisan groupthink. What we've got is a few lefties who identify with the Progressive Party - as well as some die-hard Republicans - absolutely losing their shit because of their contempt for Democrats (or their personal animosity towards Ed Adrian). Honestly, after looking at that video, its all I can figure, and its all very childish.

I'll tell you one thing, though. This whole embarrassing dustup is another reminder that Burlington City Politics is in serious need of an enema. Some Progs & Repubs would do well to take a lesson from folks like Rama and see it for what it is and not for the mass indictment of the Democratic Party they'd desperately like it to be.

Predictions on what's in store at the next City Council meeting (from a commenter on the Odum piece):-- So here is my prediction -- Some of the same folks who supported the use of police force over the use of democracy & the rule of law will start singing the "victim song" when Wright's "Height Vote" is repeated.

Prepare to hear them say "they [insert random (Adrian/Brezniak etc.) Democrat here] made us screw up the meeting and now they are making us take the vote all over;" or some variation on that theme.

Here is the collateral problem for the citizens of Burlington who need to live with Kurt Wright's antics. Wright poisoned Thursday's vote to the point where no developer, landowner, lender, residential or commercial builder will rely on the new zoning law. It's now too expensive a proposition becuase of the risk of ending up in court on a permit appeal. Who wants to go to court and waste months or years on a screwed up law? Developers know they will end up with an appeal before they find themselves on a new top floor with a view of the lake. Savory, huh?

Still, do not expect Wright to take responsibility for poisoning the change in building heights. Instead he will say "they made me do it" and wimp out of acknowledging his own failure when the re-vote occurs. Similarly, some of the folks who advocated the use of dictatorial conduct and police force instead of respecting lawful, orderly (or even disorderly) parliamentary process, will also blame council members other than Mr. Wright.

Hypocrisy watch will be looking for those blaming council members who were following our established civic traditions and who were advocating within the established rules (Adrian, Brezniack et al.) rather than looking to Wright and his enablers who abandoned bedrock rule of law & order principles over a zoning amendment.

COMMENT: I've lead public meetings and can say from experience using Robert's Rules effectively can be unwieldy. Ed Adrian and David Berezniak - elected councilors for their respective wards - were representing the interests of their constituents and used proper means to question procedures at the meeting. Kurt Wright's decision to call the police on them was just plain pathetic and unethical.

Having read a lot of the comments about what happened, I'm convinced that Burlington's citizenry is ignorant about government. And when you factor in that only 28% of registered voters participated in the last city election, they really don't give a shit about electing our democratic representatives. Easy to complain and name-call, but when it comes to active civic engagement: fagetaboutit!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Shay Totten has added several updates to his original post about the March 12th city council meeting. The discussion has continued on BurlingtonPol and Green Mountain Daily, too.

The majority of the comments on the blogs and Free Press coverage were made the day after by people who were not at the meeting - most of them had relied on the coverage in the Free Press:

Police called to City Council meeting

You'd think Steve Ekberg had streaked around Contois, disrupting the proceedings. But it was council president Kurt Wright who'd called BPD to quell what he claimed as possible unruly behavior by councilors Adrian and Berezniak.

I was not at the meeting. But from the reactions on the BFP site and the buzz on the blogs, I was expecting Adrian's and Berezniak's behaviour to be worse than was reported. What amazed me was that the police being called and their presence at the meeting was acceptable to people. I would even say that the Free Press encouraged this response with its headline.

After viewing Channel 17's rebroadcast of the Downtown Use and Height Ordinance segment - where Adrian and Berezniak questioned the procedural aspects of the agenda - it is very clear there was no reason for Wright to phone the police. He was flustered, but he was also over-reacting. As a mayoral candidate he bragged how he was a conciliator in working with opponents on the council. Calling the cops was an inappropriate remedy if we take seriously democracy in our municipal government. Councilor Berezniak is correct in making a formal complaint to city attorney Schatz.

I agree with Jack McCullough's (GMD) comments after having seen the council meeting video:

1. The entire period of the so-called disruption and confrontation regarding the points of order and points of information lasted maybe five minutes or so.

2. It appears that there were a number of different points of order and points of information that the Democrats were raising. As I could make them out, they included whether the Council was holding a new meeting or a continuation of the previous meeting; what agenda they were working from in light of the fact that the clerk had issued a new agenda but Councilor Knodell initially seemed to be addressing an item on the original agenda; whether it was in order to take up the ordinance without its first having gone through the ordinance committee; and whether the current Council was bound by a resolution that laid out a special process for this ordinance, notwithstanding the fact that there had been a change of council membership since the adoption of the original resolution. (I may be missing one or two points, but I think that's the gist of it.)

3. From what I could tell, the Democrats tried to get rulings on their points of order (or information ), but I didn't see them pushing any particular point of order once there was a ruling from the Chair on it.

4. There were a number of times when the Chair tried to reject or rule a point of order out of order before hearing it.

5. The Chair eventually informed the objecting members that they had the right to appeal his rulings and seek a vote on their point of order if they disagreed with his ruling; they never did so.

6. At no point did the Chair as for a vote on whether the Democrats were obstructing the proceedings and should be removed.

I think #6 is an important point. There is a parliamentary process for removing members who are obstructing the work of the body, but they don't involve the Chair calling the police. There may have been people other than Kurt Wright and Jane Knodell who were annoyed at the objections of the Democrats, but we didn't hear from them. We can't know what they would have done if it had been put to a vote, but it is at least possible that members of the Council who would need to maintain a working relationship with the minority might take a different view of how to proceed than the lame duck Council President and Councilor.

In law there is a process to ask the judge to allow you a continuing objection when you know you will need to make the same objection repeatedly in the course of a witness's testimony, but it doesn't apply to an objection based on different grounds. As far as I could tell, these were new objections based on different grounds, so each time an objection was made it was the first time it was being presented to the chair.

Either way, it just boggles my mind that a presiding officer would call the police and threaten to remove elected officials trying to represent their constituents, even if they were in the minority.

Friday, March 13, 2009



In June, 2006, Boots Wardinski and Michael Colby had been arrested for disorderly conduct (it was really civil disobedience) in interrupting a speech given by warmonger John Negroponte at his son's graduation from St Johnsbury Academy (VT).

This morning Michael emailed me to say that in the case State vs. Colby and Boots Wardinski, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed the charges. The court says the activists were acting within their free speech rights. Michael was ecstatic in his email, "Look out world, our record is clean..."

For now. Michael and Boots take their activism seriously.

Michael (owner of the blog Broadsides) writes, This is fantastic news for activists. It means that the state cannot arbitrarily arrest and prosecute those who simply stand to voice their political opinions. It sends a clear and unequivocal message to all levels of law enforcement to think twice before engaging in the speech-chilling activities exhibited by the multiple levels of police that day.
Read all of it here.

Kudos also to their attorney, David Sleigh.

The Vermont Supreme Court's ruling can be read here.

Media coverage so far: from VPR, Fox44 and on the Free Press blog, Blotter. Next stop, WDEV's Mark Johnson Show?

Photo credit: AP/Toby Talbot.

(Crossposted at Antemedius.)


Shay Totten writing in Blurt:--
About 50 people were inside Contois Auditorium tonight to hear The Burlington City Council debate a host of issues related to downtown development and on-campus housing and development at the University of Vermont and Champlain College.

Three Burlington City police officers were called to Contois Auditorium after a testy exchange between two Democratic city councilors — David Berezniak (Ward 2) and Ed Adrian (Ward 1) — and Republican City Council President Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) threatened to put a halt to yet another evening of debate on several major issues.

Councilors Berezniak and Adrian made repeated requests for "points of order" and "points of information" which angered Wright and clearly frustrated other councilors. Wright and otehrs were convinced the Democrats were pulling procedural stunts to derail discussion on whether to publicly warn a hearing on changes to the city's zoning rules.
The furor continues. Today Shay updates his post and provides the text of the BPD police report:--
Here, in its entirety, is Lt. Emmett Helrich's incident report (I've confirmed the veracity of this report with Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling):
"City Council President Kurt Wright called to say that he would like police presence as there had been some disruptive behavior on the part of some in attendance prior to the break. Cpl. Edwards and I went to Contois. Wright told me that Councilors Adrian and Bresniak [sp] had been disrupting the council meeting to the point that he might be compelled, as a point of order, to have them removed from Contois. Some in attendance had said that it had been quite disruptive prior to our arrival. Nothing happened after we got there and remained orderly until after the proposed amendment in question had been voted on. (raising the height of buildings in the city) At one point Councilor Adrian asked President Wright why the police were there and Wright told him he had called for police in case the members continued to be disruptive.

"After the vote we left as it was clear our presence was not needed."
Adrian said he was circulating the incident report to show that Wright called the police for no other reason than "to remove councilors that he thought were disruptive ... in particular myself and Councilor Berezniak."

Adrian reasserted his belief that Wright was "manipulating the police to intimidate city councilors from speaking and asserting their parliamentary rights."

As I noted last night, I think this is very, very far from "end of story."
The intimidating games people play. Remember, these are our elected representatives, all adults.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Exciting news from Owen Mulligan!

Today I spent over 5 hours editing my 1st film project Strange Intrusion with my editor Greg Tracy. We had been working on the editing of the film for the last several months. I am proud to announce that the film is finally done and ready for it's release on April 17th, 2009!!! The film will be aired before that date though on Vermont's channel 15...

Strange Intrusion will be distributed on the web by Green Comet Pictures, and Owen plans to enter it into film festivals.


Joel Banner Baird in the Free Press:--The sudden departure of Vermont's home-town-styled Internet provider and Web host, Silicon Dairy, has a lot of folks puzzled.

And a lot of folks vexed. Overnight, many of its longtime and loyal clients lost Web sites, databases and email lists.

The evaporation of Silicon Dairy sounds out of character. Any clues?

What's surprising is that their clients stuck around at all. I speak from experience: Silicon Dairy's service sucked. Unprofessional. Inefficient. I dropped them over a year ago. Better service & rates elsewhere.


Green Mountain Daily:-- The Times Argus' toxic and divisive poll is a reminder to our legislative leaders that the responsibility to enact priorities carries with it the responsibility to publicly advocate for those priorities.

The Times Argus' "poll" ** is nothing more than a direct, in-your-face, jab at gays and lesbians specifically, and the majority of Vermonters, in general, who value equal protection of the law.

The TA's behavior has the effect of pitting Vermonter directly against Vermonter. The poll's not-too-subtle message to its readers is "Your interests are necessarily mutually exclusive from the priorities of other Vermonters' interests when it comes to legislative priorities."

This is just plain untrue. It is toxic thinking. It creates a false, media generated, and media perpetuated conflict of priorities where none exists.

Is the TA afraid too much consensus is building around equal marriage rights? Seriously, what is the inspiration for this?

Here is the problem. When a newspaper asks:
Do you think same-sex marriage should be a top priority for the Legislature?
What it is really telling its readers is "are the issues that are important to gays and lesbians more important than the issues that affect you?"

If that's the questions they are really asking, then want to know what the real answer to that question is? The answer is Bullshit! It's bullshit because the implication is false. The conflict is non-existent.

If the Times Argus really wants to play those games, what's stopping them from pulling out all the stops and pitting the rest of "us" (whoever "we" happen to be) against each other and against our neighbors? Let's see the TA put up a poll that pits children against farmers or the elderly against working people. Why only imply to your readers that it stops with marriage rights? Certainly there are other groups that can fight to trump each other?


The Independent:-- Scientists have pieced together DNA evidence from two graves near Yekaterinburg and have conclusively shown that Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra, died with all five of their children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and their haemophiliac son, the crown prince, Alexei. The only remaining mystery is whether the girl buried alongside Alexei in a separate grave from the rest of the family was Maria or Anastasia...

The Romanov study used three different ways of analysing DNA to determine family relationships within the graves – and the relationship, if any, to living relatives of the Russian royal family. Mitochondrial DNA, inherited only down the maternal line, was used to assess the relationship of Prince Philip, who is related to the Tsarina through his mother, with bone fragments found in the grave. This helped to determine that the Tsarina and her four daughters were indeed buried in the two graves. DNA known to be inherited only from fathers by sons on the male Y chromosome was used to determine the relationship between the crown prince, Alexei, and his father, Tsar Nicholas II. And finally, DNA from the rest of the chromosomes was used to find out who was who in the mass graves – separating family members from three servants and a doctor.

For your information here are the latest published articles, which discuss the DNA investigations conducted on the skeletal remains found in Yekaterinburg: 1. Michael D. Coble 2. Dr E. Rogaev (opens PDF)

In the photo, the Romanovs visiting a regiment during World War I. From left to right, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Olga, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarevich and Grand Duke Alexei, Grand Duchess Tatiana, and Grand Duchess Maria, with Cossacks regiment.

(Photo credit: Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Now is the Spring of our discontent....

Haik Bedrosian/BurlingtonPol.com had it first about Kurt Wright's call to end the IRV Mayoral Recount. The reasons for stopping the count last night are given in today's Burlington Free Press/Briggs story.
City Councilor Kurt Wright called off a recount Tuesday night and conceded his instant-runoff loss to Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss.

With about half of the wards tabulated, Wright congratulated Kiss on his victory and asked for the recount to be halted, Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold said late Tuesday.

Leopold said that with about 43 percent of the votes recounted, the difference between the hand count and the March 3 machine count was about five votes.

“It was clear that the totals were coming in so accurately compared to the machine count that it wasn’t going to affect the outcome,” Leopold said.

Wright said earlier in the day that he requested the recount, “not for me, but at the request of a tremendous amount of citizens who really strongly urged me to do it. I was ready to move on.”

Wright, a Republican, lost to Kiss by a final margin of 252 votes, 4,313 to 4,061 on March 3. That difference amounted to 2.8 percent of the 8,976 valid ballots cast, well within the 5 percent difference in votes established by the Legislature as the threshold for recounts. Only 27 percent of registered voters participated in the election.

Wright called for the recount, in part, to test the accuracy of the instant-runoff system that propelled Kiss, a Progressive, to re-election.

“I hope the recount will confirm the integrity of the process and give citizens a level of comfort with how the system works,” he said.

This report doesn't jive with Wright's email to Haik last Friday:--
... I do agree with people like yourself Haik who believe this is the right opportunity to take a close look at how the system worked. This is not about me, it is about the process. I accept the result and am gratified to have come so close...

If Kurt had already accepted the results of the vote on March 3, why did he concede last night? He didn't think the recount would change the outcome. Clearly in his email to Haik, he wanted the recount to test the process. But how can we be contented with the process when when the recount was called off before completion? 43% is not "about half."

“It was clear that the totals were coming in so accurately compared to the machine count that it wasn’t going to affect the outcome,” Leopold said.

When the recount was halted, we were told that the difference was 5 votes. How can it be claimed that "the totals were coming in so accurately"? How does this compare to other recounts when an IRV recount has never before happened in Burlington? The votes from Wards 4 and 7 have been left uncounted; it is from these wards where Kurt received most support. Why weren't those crucial votes recounted?