Saturday, May 30, 2009

Harry in New York

Photos of the visiting Prince on HuffPost, no less. Hmmm, why? Americans do like to fawn over British Royalty. Anyway, LOL@some of the comments. Like, erm, most New Yawkers could really give a damn. True. My fave: "And yes, that's Hewitt's son." Haha, poor Harry.

Saturday Musical Offering: Astor Piazzola

Astor Piazzolla - Libertango

Those damned... Holy Homosexuals



Sure, this is a brilliant send-up the conservative Anglican archbishop of Sydney. Not all Anglicans are like him, may God be thanked. Notice in the video how he very conveniently pulls out his bible to find the the Word of God. (At the risk of being rude, that's a lot of baggage to carry around.) But, as Adrian Thatcher so eloquently writes, The Word was made of flesh and blood, not ink.
Hundreds of theologians have convinced themselves that when they read the Bible, it speaks to them. They “listen” and, of course, “obey”. But the Bible does not “say” any­thing. That is a locutionary meta­phor. It is not a person. It lets itself be read. And to discern it, readers need the Spirit, who guides them into all the truth (John 16.13).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Disaster Capitalism (Health Care Privacy Division)

It's spun as improving the efficiency in health care delivery. But this is trouble with a capital 'T.' Lawmakers in Washington have abrogated their responsibility to protect patients' privacy.

The stimulus package contains provisions on health information security that will expand HIPAA regulations to include consultants from outside the health care industry, such as lawyers and accountants. Speaking at a conference in Wisconsin, attorney Mark Garsombke explained that the provisions could force care providers to revise agreements with such professionals to address concerns regarding their exposure to personal health data.

Equally problematic is using the economic incentives to threaten cuts in Medicare services:
The stimulus package also includes Medicare incentive funding aimed at aiding adoption and use of EHRs. Beginning in 2011, health care providers may start to receive incentives for the use of EHR. This use, however, must meet the definition of “meaningful use” to qualify for payment. The final definition of “meaningful use” has yet to be worked out.

“Once a provider gets to 2015, its reimbursement will decline if electronic health records are not implemented and being used,” said Dan Miller, a Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek lawyer who participated the panel.

Disaster Capitalism (Hunger Division)

A 21st Century a scramble for Africa:

Poor countries in Africa (e.g. Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan) are leasing their land to Western corporations and semi-governmental agencies to provide food to countries outside that Continent.

Today, there's a news item in nrc/international about a pilot project fighting
the 'hidden hunger' in Africa. What's surprising is the companies involved don't even try to spin it as a solely magnanimous gesture. It's a well-crafted scheme to win hearts and minds - and future markets - in some of the same countries that are leasing their lands.
[Emphasis mine.]
A collaboration between the Dutch ministry of development aid, the agricultural university in Wageningen and a couple of multinationals aims to add vitamins and minerals to the diet of those who need it most. Their aim is not entirely philanthropic, the companies also hope to secure their future markets.

According to the World Health Organisation, 963 million people do not have enough to eat and an estimated 2 billion people are affected by iron deficiency, the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide. [...]

DSM, a Delft-based food company; Unilever, the multinational consumer product maker, and paint and chemical producer Akzo Nobel want to combine the knowledge and networks of industry, science and government to improve the nutrition of African children. [...]

Are the multinationals simply trying to polish up their image? "This is not charity," says Unilever's Global Health Partnerships director Paulus Verschuren. "It is about the added value to both society and our company. You need a functioning society if you want to set up a healthy business. By fighting malnutrition now we hope to secure our future markets."

DSM too sees business opportunities in fighting malnutrition. The company is developing so-called NutriRice, nutritionally enriched rice. It uses broken grains of rice - usually residuary - which it then crushes and mixes with vitamins and minerals. The pulp is then manufactured into rice grains again and blended back in with the normal rice.

NutriRice has been tested among high school students in China and was "a great success" according to Adade.
(Cross-posted at Antemedius.)

Blurt: The Nation on USAID, Plan Colombia and Burlington-based ARD

Here's Ken Picard's latest on the SevenDays staff blog, Blurt, about a "local" connection to a "global" war.
About six months ago, I got a phone call from a reporter who claimed he was calling from Colombia. I automatically assumed he meant the institution of higher learning in upper Manhattan.

"Columbia University?" I asked.

"No, Colombia the country," he replied, without a hint of condescension.

The man was looking for some background info on ARD, an international development firm headquartered on Bank Street in downtown Burlington. (Former Mayor Peter Clavelle took a job there after his unsuccessful bid for governor.) Why call Seven Days? In 2007, I'd written a short piece about ARD after it was bought out by a much larger firm, Tetra Tech, of Pasadena, California, which has close ties to the U.S. military.

The reporter, whom I can only assume now was Teo Ballvé, said he was working on an investigative piece for the Nation about Plan Colombia and ARD's work in that country. He asked me about a half-dozen questions about ARD and its Burlington offices — none of which seemed particularly relevant to international narco-trafficking — then thanked me for my time and said he'd email me the story when it came out.

I never heard back from him and assumed he'd lost my email address, the story had been killed or he'd been. (Hey,drug traffickers don't waste their time sending nasty emails to your editors when you piss them off.)

This morning, Ballvé forwarded me a link to this week's story in the Nation, "The Dark Side of Plan Colombia". In it, he alleges that USAID grant money, channeled through firms such as ARD, "appears to have put drug war dollars in the hands of a confessed narco-paramilitary and two accused paramilitary-linked drug traffickers," a possible violation of federal law.

Clearly, a lot of time and research went into this story. Give it a read, and let us know what you think.

(Cross-posted at Antemedius.)

Trafalgar Square's reinvigorated fountain

Now, if they could only get rid of the dirty pigeons! When I lived in London, I'd pass through the square en route to Embankment tube station to catch a Circle Line train for the ride home, stopping occasionally to watch one of the many demonstrations taking place.

Guardian

... As Joel Schobs, the engineer in a chlorine-scented lair deep beneath the square's flagstones, cranked up the pressure and eased open valves that had been closed for a lifetime, the plume in the western fountain gradually and almost imperceptibly rose.

Within a minute it was visibly taller than its twin. Within two it was high enough to splash the bronze cloak of General Charles Napier. Within five it was a spurting glory, 35 feet high – higher than anyone has seen it in at least 30 years and probably twice as long as that. The ducks that arrive every summer from nearby St James's Park quacked ecstatically.

"Not bad, is it?" said Richard Genn, who is in charge of the square for the Greater London Authority and has supervised a year-long £190,000 project to restore the fountains to their intended glory. ...

The original Victorian fountains had nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with reducing the amount of open space and the risk of riotous assembly. The police post concealed inside a granite column in the corner, often wrongly called the smallest police station in London, was added in the great depression of the 1930s: it was linked directly to Scotland Yard and has slots through which the solitary occupant could fire on any rioters.

[Photograph: Zak Hussein/PA]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Marrow program steps up efforts to gain more minority donors

This is good news! The National Marrow Donor Program has changed the name of its bone-marrow donor registry to Be the Match and is using such social-media Web sites as Facebook and MySpace to reach younger potential donors and encourage them to sign up. The agency also has developed an online search tool to make it easier to identify possible matches in the registry.

When I worked for a blood donor center at a hospital in the Texas Medical Center, we'd co-sponsor bone marrow registry drives, targeting African-American groups to assist patients with Sickle Cell Disease. (Sickle cell disease results from an abnormality in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Because the disorder involves cells produced in the bone marrow, replacement of the defective bone marrow with normal marrow will cure it.)

The Real News Network: Everything is on the table except what's not

From The Real News Network: 'Sen. Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee announced last week: "single-payer option is not on the table because it cannot pass". A week earlier, a rally, co-sponsored by one of the main advocates of single-payer system, CNA/NNOC took place on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of nurses, doctors and health care reform advocates gathered to express their opinion on the health care issues.'

As a person on the clip below says,
"Politicians have to stop taking money from the insurance companies and right now they're saying it's not politically feasible because they're still taking money from that big industrial medical complex, from pharmaceuticals..."



More at The Real News


Related: People from Toronto respond to a US advertising campaign about the Canadian health-care system


More at The Real News


More at SinglePayerAction.org

The occupiers are women battering rapists (UPDATED)

UPDATE: From Jeremy Scahill/Rebel Reports:
In a major story today, London’s Daily Telegraph quoted Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba describing photos (that the Obama administration is fighting to keep secret), which allegedly depict US personnel raping prisoners, other sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba said. Put that statement against this one from the president: In defending his decision to fight the ACLU in its efforts to have the photos publicly released, Obama said on May 13, “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational.
Scahill goes on to report that the White House is attempting to diss the messenger: Maj Gen Taguba.

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Recently, you've been reading about the guilty verdict - and life sentence - of Steven Green for rape and murder. He's just one of many - not just the proverbial 'bad apple.' Rape, murder and pillage are endemic in Iraq and part of the US military culture; from Ten Percent:
We know they murdered, we know they pillaged, we know they raped, we know they took pictures. We know the Whitehouse under any administration protects the criminals, not least because they ordered it. Does Obama look so noble when he is covering this up. They have studiously avoided the pictures of the women who were raped, much harder to maintain the heroic troop myth necessary for continual imperial aggression when they are women battering rapists.


Photos: Abu Ghraib prison, 2004 (AFP)

A crazy idea, you say?

Yes, it is crazy.

"Whew! And, it’s a really good thing Bush is no longer in power or else the US would come up with some crazy idea like building a colonial fortress in Pakistan to defend “US interests” in the region."

Yes, indeed, it's already happening, an accessory to Obama's AfPak central Asia strategy.

Pieter van Vollenhoven visits parents of attacker (30 April)


The parents of Karst T., the man who attempted to attack the RF on April 30 and died as a result, still have emotional stress ever since it happened. (The general public have shown empathy to the family.) According to Volksrant [Dutch] on May 21, Ascension Day, Pieter van Vollenhoven, the spouse of Princess Margriet - on behalf of the RF - visited the parents of Karst T. Not only a thoughtful gesture, but a way for the family to come to terms with their tragedy.

Photo: Pieter van Vollenhoven (ANP)

State Rep. Paul Poirer (I)

From Broadsides

A Central Vermont state representative, Paul Poirier, announced yesterday that he was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent. Why? Because he felt that the Democratic Party wasn’t taking the issues affecting working people seriously enough.
Bravo to Poirier.

But his very thoughtful and open decision sent the local Democratic Party faithful – you know, the ones who hate war unless it’s a Democratic war, or injustice unless it’s Democratic injustice (read: Obama and gay marriage), etc. – into an all-too-familiar political tantrum.

One particular Dem blogger who is known for having a near-constant brain wedgie from his ill-fitting corporate-issued Dem cheerleader outfit wondered what Poirier could possibly mean by middleclass people being disillusioned by the Democratic Party. Hmm, let’s see, how about these three issues: The war(s), health care, and economic injustice (as in: bailouts for billionaires, flagger-jobs for the rest of us).

The power of the Obama haze never ceases to amaze me. Worse, the continued – and even worsening – manner in which worshipers of the two parties defend their churches – err, I mean, parties – to the detriment of the issues they claim to “fight for” remains simply bizarre.

Remember, for example, that Obama was an “anti-war” candidate. But once his “team” won, out went the issues of the day and in came a most disingenuous form of reasoning that goes something like: Just wait. And wait. And wait.

Do these folks envision little smiley faces on the bombs of Obama? Oh look, honey, he makes them happy before they die from his tyranny and our inaction….

Again, congrats to Poirier. The parties don’t matter – unless you’re looking for easy friends and a job – but the issues do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The work is never over

Paul Fromberg, the rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco and whom I knew briefly when he was rector of a parish in Houston, writes about yesterday's California Supreme Court decision on marriage equality:

"In terms of political organizing, the fight for gay marriage can’t be separated from California’s budget crisis: from our struggles for immigrant rights, education reform, and tax reform that will allow us to provide humane health care and educate all our children. The fight for gay marriage can’t simply involve gays throwing a bit of money at a campaign so we can all have fabulous weddings. It means, as we say in my business, doing the hard work of becoming a community."

De Menezes Murder: More insult to injury


Via Martin Wisse:
Police officer who altered evidence in the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes has been cleared of "deliberate deception":

The Special Branch officer deleted text from his computer note before speaking to the inquest in October last year.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said he was not guilty of "deliberate deception".

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot dead by police at Stockwell Tube station in south London in July 2005.

The IPCC said the officer, known as "Owen", had acted naively, but found no evidence of deliberate deception.

Last October, the officer told the inquest he deleted a line from computer notes which quoted Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick.

The note had originally claimed Dick had initially said the electrician could "run onto Tube as not carrying anything".

But at the inquest he said: "On reflection, I looked at that and thought 'I cannot actually say that.'"

The officer, a supervisor in the operations room at Scotland Yard, told the court he had removed the line because he believed it was "wrong and gave a totally false impression."

The IPCC found Owen "acted alone" in failing to disclose the note and then deleting it.

Its report concluded the officer had shown a "lack of understanding" of how he should behave, but had not committed an offence.
Unbelievable, but not surprising. The socalled "Independent" Police Complaints Commission has shown time and again in the de Menezes case to be toothless or unwilling to actually prosecute the police. The IPCC is too much a part of the police establishment to do its job, either unwilling or unable to handle these sort of cases. As with parliament we once again see that self regulation does not work.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Despicable ruling in Holland

nrc/international

Impunity for Dutch massacre in Indonesia was given 60 years ago

The Dutch state does not want to pay compensation to the victims of a 1947 massacre in an Indonesian village, but it also stopped the prosecution of the army officer who was held responsible right after the attrocity, the Dutch current affairs television programme Netwerk revealed on Monday.
The story of the Rawagede village was back in the limelight last year when relatives and survivors of the massacre demanded an apology and compensation from the Dutch state.

On the TV show on Monday, Jeffrey Pondaag of the Committee for Dutch Honours of Debt showed an exchange of letters from 1948 that reveals the decision not to prosecute major Alphons Wijnen for the atrocity was taken straight after the tragedy, in spite of a recommendation by the Dutch chief of staff Simon Spoor to the procurator general to institute proceedings.

On 9 December 1947, Dutch troops attacked the village of Rawagede and, according to the villagers, killed all the men - 431 in total. A 1969 investigation by the Dutch government into war crimes in Indonesia says 150 were killed in Rawagede (since renamed Balongsari).

Indonesia was granted sovereignty from the Netherlands in 1949 after five years of armed struggle against the Dutch army.

Pondaag and his committee are now seeking compensation and apologies for nine widows and one man who survived the bloodbath as a boy. Pondaag said he found the exchange of letters in the files given to him by the lawyer representing the government in the case.

The Dutch attorney general has rejected the civil claim put forward last September because the case is too old.
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For background: look here and here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Madeleine Albright: a woman of justice and peace?

In 1996, this famous exchange occured on 60 Minutes:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
Today in nrc/international
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright is to take up a job in The Hague. De Volkskrant newspaper reports that Albright will sit on the supervisory board of a new research and academic institute, provisionally named the Institute for Global Justice.

Working closely with Leiden University, the institute is to offer a prestigious degree course in the field of peace, justice and international security.

The Venerable Bede, Priest, and Monk of Jarrow, 735


A reading for May 25.

TimesOnline

Roderick Strange - Credo: More than a brief flight through warmth and light

Bede once compared human life without faith to a sparrow flying through a banqueting hall in winter

An old monk lay dying but still he had work to complete. He dictated to a scribe the last lines of a book he had been writing on St John’s Gospel and distributed what few small treasures he possessed to his fellow monks. He gave glory to God, singing, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”, and then he died. It was the morning of Ascension Day.

These events are not recent. Far from it. They took place in 735. The monk was Bede, known as the Venerable. He is the only English Doctor of the Church and his feast is celebrated in the coming week.

We may respect him, but we may also wonder what to make of him. He lived so long ago.

Bede was born in Sunderland in 673 and brought up in a monastery at Wearmouth from the age of 7, before becoming a monk himself at Jarrow and living there for the rest of his life. It seems probable he never left northeast England. How could so isolated a life be significant for us? Yet that very isolation may itself be the clue.

Most of us too have times when we feel fairly isolated and we wonder what difference our lives make or what value they have. However long we may live, in fact our time is short. Bede once compared human life without faith to a sparrow flying through a banqueting hall in winter, where, as he wrote, “the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging”. Then “a sparrow flies swiftly though the hall. It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other . . . So this life of man appears but for a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all.”

The image may chill us. It may seem all too likely. However, Bede was using the image to suggest that there is more to life than that brief flight through warmth and light from darkness to darkness. And his own life was devoted to exploring that deeper possibility.

In his monastery he gave himself up to scholarship. He has declared that he loved to learn, to teach, and to write. And he was fortunate that at that very time great monastic libraries were being assembled, placing at his disposal the resources he needed. So among his many writings there were commentaries on Scripture, lives of the saints, and in particular that Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which many regard as his greatest work because of the new standards it set: its sense of time, its instinct for a good story, its mastery of readable Latin, and the start it even made in using sources critically. And those three strands of writing can be seen as linked. What is brought out by contemplating and studying Scripture is made real in the lives of holy men and women, the people who come to be recognised as saints. And the saints themselves are not to be viewed simply as individuals; their lives are a part of the Church’s life, its complex, sometimes blemished, history.

Contemplation can shape who we are, and who we are has its influence on others. Prayer and study, identity and action are not separate. They need to be integrated and made coherent.

Although he lived a hidden, scholarly life long ago, Bede is not forgotten. He is, for example, patron of this college where I am rector, where men are prepared for ordained ministry in the English-speaking world, and where the integration of prayer and study, identity and action, is fundamental. It gives meaning to a sparrow’s flight beyond the banqueting hall.

Next month men from here who later will be ordained as priests, will become deacons, for Malaysia, Zimbabwe and America, for Australia and for England. All five continents will be represented. Bede’s imagination, if he could ever have imagined it, would have reeled at the prospect of his influence spreading in such a way. And how can we calculate the impact of our own lives and actions?


Monsignor Roderick Strange is Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Palestinian rights deserve Anglican action

P U L S E has a post up (by David Thomson) commenting on an opinion column from Thursday, May 21, by Ben White, a regular contributor to the Guardian's Cif/belief. (Ben White has also written for the Anglican website, Fulcrum.) I had to chuckle at the comments on Mr White's Guardian piece. Ben White takes on "even handedness" of Anglicans [that typically Anglican - and sometimes maddeningly frustrating - "via media" approach to any theological, political or cultural controversy] regarding resolutions on Israel-Palestine at the recent Anglican Consultative Council meeting. Mr Thomson sees the heavy-handed influence of a pro-Zionist right-wing organisation in the Anglican Communion which has campaigned vigorously against Anglican efforts to promote divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel.
Ben White writes that “a obsession with even-handedness is stopping Anglicans taking a firm stand on Israel’s disregard for Palestinian rights.”

However I’d argue that the obsession with even-handedness is not a cause but an effect — an effect of paranoia induced by the Israel lobby, strongly represented in the Anglican community by Anglican Friends of Israel.

This group spread the fear that criticising Israel will damage relations with the Jewish community, even if this were so, should it stop the church’s quest for justice? They also use ‘anti-Semitism’ (or Judeophobia) and therefore the Holocaust, to create an atmosphere of intimidation saying Anglican peace activists are “singling out” Israel (thus implying there is no good reason to criticise Israel and the reason must be anti-Jewish racism). No individual or organisation wants to be threatened with anti-Semitism and have themselves compared to some of the worst criminals in history.

It’s sad that these tired old tricks are still accepted and work as a distraction from the real issues of colonialism, occupation, international law, basic morality and justice.
At the 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting, held in Jamaica earlier this month, a resolution on the Middle East was passed, criticising the Israeli occupation. An original version of the resolution was originally submitted by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN)[JayV: APJN website], but as the language was felt by some to be too “strong”, a new resolution was put forward and adopted.

The resolution staked out a position based on international law, a rejection of violence as a means of conflict resolution, and opposition to Israel’s occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian territories.

It also called for a “two state solution”, and “lamented” the fact that Israeli policies in the West Bank “have created severe hardship for many Palestinians” and are “experienced as a physical form of apartheid”. There was an affirmation that a “just peace must guarantee the security and territorial integrity of both Israel and the future state of Palestine so that all the people of the area can live in peace and prosperity.”

For some, however, this call for two states living side by side – a state of affairs that would necessarily require one party to stop its domination of the other – was a cause for “dismay”. Anglican Friends of Israel released a statement (faithfully reproduced by The Times’s religion correspondent) which regretted how “once again”, Anglicans had “singled out Israel for criticism” without any “context” or taking into account “the Palestinian contribution to the conflict”.

Where the resolution condemned illegal policies like settlement building, the ICJ-condemned separation wall, and house demolitions, Anglican Friends for Israel saw a call for Israel to “lay down all measures which protect her citizens from Arab terrorism”. Apparently, not even Palestinian “interests” are served by such a “ghastly pronouncement”, which, the statement warned, “threatens to completely sabotage Anglican-Jewish relations”.

The resolution, passed “overwhelmingly”, was publicly backed by a number of those present, including the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makogba, who told the council how he had “lived under apartheid” and knew its “pain”. He went on to describe seeing the “‘the brutality’ in the West Bank and Gaza that ’segregates God’s people’.”

The original wording submitted by APJN had been specifically criticised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who took particular issue with “a section that ‘condemns the judaisation of the city (of Jerusalem) by the government of Israel”. The Archbishop was reported as saying that “judaisation is a word that I cannot, in conscience, accept”, since “it equates ‘the political machinations of the Israeli government’ with the people of faith in Jewish society”.

That there is a deliberate policy of judaisation in Jerusalem is not a secret in Israel; politicians and policy-makers routinely talk of strengthening the “Jewish character” of the city (and other areas too for that matter).

So in fact then, while Williams is right to critique the conflation of the Israeli state’s policies with “people of faith in Jewish society”, his target should be that very same Israeli state which in the name of Jews worldwide maintains a regime of racial exclusion.

The archbishop’s other concern, according to the same report, was to avoid saying anything in such as a way as to “jeopardise the Anglican Communion’s dialogue with the Rabbinate”. This was a worry also taken up by others, including the coordinator of the Anglican Communion Office’s Network for Interfaith Concerns, who helped produce the alternative resolution that was eventually passed.

The Anglican Church has trodden an uneasy path in recent years when it comes to words and actions on Israel/Palestine. Despite recommendations by the APJN to pursue divestment as means of opposing Israel’s occupation, this has never been followed through.

While many individual church members and ministers across the worldwide communion are active in working for a just peace in the Middle East, the senior leadership is typically shy of going much beyond hand-wringing statements of sorrow and “even-handed” reproach.

It is unfortunate that the division, such as in the case of this recent ACC resolution, is often expressed in terms of those seeking stronger expressions of protest over the Israeli occupation against those seeking to avoid tension in Jewish-Christian relations.

The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, of course. But even when these worries about interfaith dialogue are sincere (rather than a disingenuous smokescreen), how long can they hamstring serious action by the Anglican Communion in the face of Israel’s entrenched – and worsening – disregard for basic Palestinian political and human rights?
Cross-posted at Antemedius.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Music Groove: Lhasa

Montréal-based singer songwriter Lhasa, whose songs reflect her Mexican and American roots.

Fully Controlled at All Times (Updated)

Scroll down for Update.
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"They could get lucky... they could have easily got a hand gun... they could get lucky, you just never know. Who knows with these guys... just because they may be incompetent, doesn't mean something couldn't have happened. We shouldn't exaggerate the threat coming from home-grown groups." -- Lydia Khalil, former counter terrorism analyst for the NYPD from 2006 to 2008, on the Riverdale plotters, in NPR's The Takeway morning program segment, "New York City Terrorism and Security."

Here's Ethan Brown's diary in TalkLeft, talking about "thin, informant-driven" past terror plots (Sears Tower, Fort Dix and the 34th Street subway station in Manhattan) which resulted in guilty verdicts. The TL piece ends with:
These so-called "preemptive indictments"--in which defendants are charged based on their intentions and not their actions--are a perversion of justice and a cruel joke, every bit of a joke as the theory of "preemptive war" that led us to Iraq. And yet it is this legal theory that drives our anti-terror strategy in the U.S.
From Medialens Message Board [emphasis Medialens]:

Questions about the "Temple Plot"

The FBI and and media are going ape over this alleged "Temple bombing" plot in which four men from Newburgh, New York, planted what they thought were bombs outside a Jewish temple. Also, these "domestic terrorists" were planning to obtain Stinger missiles to shoot down U.S. military planes.

Interestingly, we see that the entire "plot" was hatched by an FBI informant:

The defendants, in their efforts to acquire weapons, dealt with an informant acting under law enforcement supervision, authorities said. The FBI and other agencies monitored the men and provided an inactive missile and inert C-4 to the informant for the defendants, a federal complaint said.

In June 2008, the informant met Cromitie in Newburgh and Cromitie complained that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and he was upset about the war there and that many Muslim people were being killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. military forces, officials said.

Folks, let's take a hard look at this one, please. It is not as though C-4 explosives and Stinger missiles are available at every neighborhood drug store. Had any of the four "terrorists" ever obtained explosives or anything similar on their own? Somehow, I seriously doubt it. The New York Times pretty much gives it away, although unintentionally:

A federal law enforcement official described the plot as “aspirational” — meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives — and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.

“It was fully controlled at all times,” a law enforcement official said.

Indeed, this Freudian slip perhaps is the most truthful line in the entire article.
More from the same Medialens MB thread:

Like Miami 7, New York Terror Plot Funded And Uncovered By The FBI

At the top of today’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez reported:

"We know that they had been working with an FBI informant for quite awhile. And they purchased inactive missiles and inert C-4 explosives from them. I wonder where they got the money. Who's funding these things?...Would you say that home-grown terrorists are a bigger threat now to us than foreign terrorists?"

Again, an FBI informant led these “home-grown” “Al-Qaeda-Wanna-Be” losers to purchase explosives and probably provided the money and the expertise, as they did in the Miami Seven “terror plot” to blow-up the Sears Tower.

In other words, these “terror cells” have been created, engineered and funded by the FBI.

In the Miami Seven case, defense attorneys said the group had no links to al-Qaida and were probably set up by a government informant.

After two hung juries, 5 of the Miami 7 were found guilty this month. To make their case, the government would have tried these losers twenty times until they got a conviction. They can afford to do it with our money.

These Miami 7 losers were promised money by an FBI informant to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, and despite the fact that they did nothing but try to extract money from the informant, the Jury convicted 5 of the remaining 6 defendants, one had been acquitted in an earlier trial.

I expect to see the same exact story line develop in the New York case.

Without the help of the FBI, there would have been no terror plot.

The Bush machinery is still in place “creating” terror to keep Americans in constant fear and to give Dick Cheney more credence while he defends torture.
The ML thread ends with exerpts from an article in the Independent:
Kim Sengupta: Official hype on terrorism will only stoke Islamic resentment
… The suspects were Muslim converts who had talked loosely about carrying out attacks. But they were also petty criminals who had no links with known terrorists and had no expertise or weaponry to carry out such acts. The C-4 plastic explosive "bombs" they placed outside the synagogues in the Bronx were duds, as were their Stinger missiles. They all were supplied by the FBI, who monitored the "plot"throughout.

This kind of official hype regarding terrorism is hardly confined to the other side of the Atlantic. Last month, the arrest of 12 terror suspects in the north of England took place amid massive media coverage and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, declaring that Britain faced a "very big" threat. All that unravelled fairly swiftly and embarrassingly with the admission that no evidence of terrorist plotting had been found.

What these cases do, however, is heighten public fear about Islamist terrorism.

…The four men arrested in New York have been charged with, among other things, conspiracy to use "weapons of mass destruction" – ironic in the context of the falsehoods used to justify the Iraq invasion, which a senior British diplomat called "a recruiting sergeant" for insurgents.

Commissioner Kelly described the FBI sting operation as showing "Our concern about homegrown terrorism".

…By treating the hapless New York plot as a huge domestic chapter of global jihad, the authorities risk fuelling the sense of resentment which may, indeed, help create the homegrown terrorism they say they are seeking to counter.


Update

Ethan Brown at TL:
The New York Post has a useful little primer on the informant at the center of the alleged plot to bomb a Bronx synagogue. According to the Post, the informant is an upstate New York motel owner named Shahed Hussain.

Hussain became an informant after being busted on fraud charges; Hussain worked as a translator for the DMV and helped immigrants cheat on driver's tests. His bid to become an informant, according to the Post, was driven by a desire to win leniency on the fraud charges and avoid being deported to Pakistan. [MORE]
With two astute TL commenters [my emphasis]:

"[S]pending a year talking some clowns into doing something violently stupid isn't preventing terrorism in the slightest...like the rest of our anti-terror policies, its only to make us feel better or safer...nothing is being accomplished. It's illusionary "feel good" nonsense that does more harm than good."

"But this way they get to time the arrests to fill a need in keeping the public scared of terror attacks and thinking the techniques being used (spying on us all, and torture) are keeping us safe."

(Cross-posted at Antemedius.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Humourous Link of the Day

This ain't satire, these guys are serious (or seriously idiotic). Of course, the Democratic Party doesn't even come close to being socialist or Democratic Socialist.

From The Real News Network: The Republican National Committee to re-brand the Democratic Party as the "Dem Socialist Party"

TIMES ARGUS: Vermont senators split on funds for Gitmo closing

By Louis Porter VERMONT PRESS BUREAU - Published: May 21, 2009

MONTPELIER — A vote on funding to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center requested by President Barack Obama resulted in the $80 million being stripped out of a war funding bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Vermont's two U.S. senators, Democrat Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders, an Independent, split on the spending provision. Leahy was one of six senators voting in support of funding the closure; Sanders voted against the money needed to shut down the prison.

The New York Times called the Senate vote a "strong rebuke of the Obama White House."

Sanders said he voted against funding to close the facility in Cuba — despite voting differently on a related measure in 2007 — because he wants a clear and thorough examination of why the roughly 240 prisoners there are being held and an accounting of what will happen to them.

"A couple of years ago I was one of the few to vote against a resolution dealing with Guantanamo because I wanted to make it very clear that I believed that (President) Bush's decision to keep Guantanamo open was a disaster for the image of the United States and for our entire foreign policy," Sanders said.

"I agree with President Obama that Guantanamo must be shut down," he added, "and in my view should be shut down as soon as possible. I want to make absolutely certain that torture is never again part of America's interrogation practices and all detainees are treated under the rules of the Geneva Convention."

But before funding the closure of Guantanamo is approved, a commission examining issues such as why the detainees of the camp were taken there, whether their status as enemy combatants is legitimate and what will happen to them should complete its work, Sanders said.

"I think it is prudent to review the plan they develop before we spend $80 million of taxpayers' money," he said. "A number of important questions remain unanswered about the rather complicated issue of not only how you close down the facility — you can close down a facility in five minutes — but what you do with the prisoners."

For similar reasons he will likely vote against the underlying war funding bill when it comes before the Senate, perhaps as early as today, Sanders said.

"I don't believe we are seeing the kind of exit strategy we need for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

"Whether it is George Bush or Barack Obama, my job is to take a hard look at the plans that an administration brings forth," Sanders said. "I happen to be a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but that doesn't mean he is right on every issue."

Leahy was one of the six senators voting with Obama on the matter.

Leahy "believes it would be a mistake to start negating options before we know what the options are," said David Carle, a Leahy spokesman. [Continue reading the Porter article here.]

H/T to Blurt/Shay Totten, who also reports the Sanders - Leahy split.

Guantanomo inmate to appear before NY court

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide International News

Published Thursday 21 May 2009

For the first time, a suspected terrorist held at the Guantanamo detention centre will be brought before a US civil court. US media report that President Barack Obama will announce on Thursday that Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani will have to stand trial in New York. He was allegedly involved in the attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. Ahmed Ghailani was detained in Pakistan in 2004 and later transferred to Guantánamo.

The president will today give a speech in which he will provide further details of his plans to close the infamous detention centre. On Wednesday, the Senate refused to provide funds for closing down Guantanamo. A majority fears some suspected terrorists may be released into the United States or possible escape from US prisons.

According to The New York Times [JayV edit: NYT blatant fear mongering], an undisclosed Pentagon report shows that 74 of the 534 suspected terrorists released from Guantanamo have joined terrorists or other militants. Two hundred-and-forty prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo.

RebelReports - In Closed-Door Meeting With Rights Groups, Obama Suggests He'll Use 'Preventive Detention'

By Jeremy Scahill

Just when you think President Obama’s policies on war, civil liberties and Guantanamo couldn’t possibly look any more like the Bush/Cheney regime’s than they already do, the administration goes ahead and proves you dead wrong. In a meeting Wednesday with several human rights groups including the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch, Obama said he was “mulling the need for a ‘preventive detention’ system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried,” according to two participants in the “private session.” [read all of Scahill here]

RNW: Balkenende Interview

I don't agree with Jan-Peter Balkenende's politics, but I was impressed with this interview and hope RNW does more like it with him.

In an exclusive video interview with the English Department of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced on Wednesday evening that he will suggest to other European countries that they adopt the Dutch ‘polder model' of government.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BREAKING: New Hampshire House balks on marriage equality bill

Bay News
Wednesday afternoon, May 20, 2009

The New Hampshire Senate passed it, the governor was standing by to sign it, and many expected approval of a final same-sex marriage bill in the House today could be swift and routine.

But in a surprise turnabout, the New Hampshire House voted narrowly Wednesday afternoon to defeat the measure, 186 to 188.

When the House Speaker announced the vote in the House, the chamber erupted with sounds of both distress and applause. Supporters and opponents then launched immediate efforts to both save and kill the measure for this legislative session.

Yikes!

From today's Independent : 'I was waiting for a signal,' says skydiver who forgot to pull the cord – and lived

The veteran skydiver from Staffordshire had already made more than 2,500 jumps. He was calm and fully prepared for the astonishing thrill that comes with hurtling towards the ground, safe in the knowledge that his parachute would help him land safely.

Except this time there was one small problem. While he was concentrating on filming, his dive partner was supposed to be keeping a close eye on the rapidly approaching ground. But as the crucial moment approached the signal from his friend to draw his parachute failed to get through and Mr Boole slammed into the snow covered rocks at 100mph.

Remarkably, despite a broken back, a punctured lung and several broken ribs, the 31–year–old survived his ordeal. Recuperating at his home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, he recalled the moment he realised he had survived. "What went through my mind was my wife and daughter," he said. "I really thought I was going to die."

A self–confessed adrenaline junkie, Mr Boole had flown to eastern Russia to film a documentary about one of the most extreme forms of sky diving – "wingsuit base jumping".

Unlike standard dives, where jumpers release their parachutes far above the ground and float gently down to earth, Mr Boole prefers the base jumper ethos, where practitioners open their chute at the last minute to maximise their freefall time. He was also wearing a wingsuit – a specially designed bodysuit which allows jumpers to "fly" as they hurtle towards earth. In the right conditions, for every metre that a jumper falls while wearing a wingsuit they are also able to travel up to three metres forward.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dowd's Deep Doo Doo

I don't anymore, but when I did read the NYT regularly, I'd check out Maureen Dowd for her sarcastic opinion pieces.

Dan Kennedy: ... I continue to be troubled by her explanation of how she came to lift a paragraph from Josh Marshall's megablog, Talking Points Memo.

OK, so Dowd was "talking" in a "spontaneous" manner with a friend, as she put it to the Huffington Post. Fine. I had decided to assume for the purpose of moving on that by "talking" she meant "e-mailing." It would be completely believable if she had copied and pasted from a friend's e-mail who had volunteered to help her write her column.


COMMENT
: Weird times we live in, and of course, liberal bloggers and the busy media gotcha gang are having a field day with yet another diversion from the real news. But I do think this bowdlerization of language is troubling. 'Talking,' 'e-mailing.' On Gmail, when you want to write an email, you click "Compose Mail." After you click "send," the confirmation reads, "This message has been sent."

It gets worse. After you delete an email, the confirmation reads, "This conversation has been moved to the Trash" (with a capital 'T,' for typographical emphasis!).

Apples of Orange


On May 12th, Princess Máxima of The Netherlands and Co-Patron of the Orange Fund [English] presented [Dutch] the Apples of Orange - Appeltjes van Oranje - to three innovative projects at Noordeinde Palace.

"An Appeltje van Oranje is primarily a gesture of esteem for the work and efforts of the winning organisation and also an example to inspire others to start similar initiatives."

See the photo at the right; the bronze award has been designed by Queen Beatrix, the "Sculptor Queen." HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Orange were in attendance. One of the Appeltje recipients was a volunteer group in Zeeland.

I was intrigued because this service organisation - Ruilwerk, an exchange/resale shop - is in Goes, near my father's birthplace. (Wolphaartsdijk, where my uncle was a family practice doctor, is in the same municipality.) So I did an on-line search and found a YouTube site with interviews of the workers there.

Here are two very, very nice videos by Goes TV (the station has interviews by local youth). The interviews are in Dutch, but it makes my heart glad to see the clips: clearly the volunteers are proud of their important work and this recognition!

Before they left to travel to The Hague...

Dinsdag 12 mei vertrekken vrijwilligers van de ruilwinkel in Goes naar Den Haag. Daar ontvangen ze uit handen van prinses Maxima een geldbedrag en een beeldje (het Appeltje van Oranje) dat door de koningin is gemaakt. De burgemeester van Goes en een wethouder gaan ook mee. Reportage: Mandy, Bram & Yamie.




The volunteers' reactions after the ceremony give us an insight about what happens to an honored group when they go to the ceremony.

De vrijwilligers van de Ruilwinkel in Goes zijn dinsdag 12 mei naar paleis Noordeinde in Den Haag geweest om uit handen van prinses Maxima een prijs in ontvangst te nemen (het Appeltje van Oranje)....

Roman Catholic Hypocrisy

Regarding the tiff over Obama's honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.

Every good Catholic knows that the church is strictly opposed to capital punishment. Since Bush set records for carrying out death sentences when he was governor of Texas, you would think that the same guardians of virtue that are protesting Obama, who has never personally signed an abortion certificate, would have been out in force for a man who presided over 152 executions. But there was nary a peep. There were no bishops signing petitions opposing Bush’s appearance. There were no protests on campus. There were no students refusing to participate in graduation ceremonies. And there were no cameras from national news networks circling like buzzards.

If these Catholic Crusaders are truly interested in demonstrating their piety without prejudice, they should immediately call for Notre Dame to revoke Bush’s honorary degree. If the press is honestly endeavoring to be objective, they should pose this question to the protesters.

Slave labor conditions in Holland

Eastern European workers - mainly Roma - are to The Netherlands what Hispanic or Asian laborers are in the United States: targets of exploitation and inhumane working conditions. The annual asparagus harvest in Holland has prompted the authorities to raid a farm.
The owner of an asparagus farm in the province of Brabant is being investigated by the Social Intelligence and Investigation Service (SIOD) to see if criminal charges can be brought against her after 50 East European workers were discovered to be living in "near-slavery" conditions.

The SIOD - a body of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment charged with criminal investigations - had been given the go-ahead to raid the farm on Friday because the sleeping quarters were in breach of fire regulations. It was then that the extent of the conditions came to light.

The 50 farmhands, many of them Romanian, were not allowed to leave the premises and were sleeping in a filthy room without a window. The workers were being paid less than the agreed wage.

The farm owner has already been fined five times by the labour inspectorate since 2005 for employing illegal immigrants, paying under the minimum wage and failure to report an on-site accident. The fines amounted to more than 500,000 euros.

Dutch police shoot a taser for the very first time

As the use of tasers by Burlington police has increased, the first 'target' for police in The Netherlands was a 'suicidal' man:

The man, aged 30, stood on a balcony, pressing a number of knives against his throat. Despite talking to the man for hours, the police was unable to resolve the situation, which led them to resort to the taser gun. Subsequently, the man was brought into safety.

The use of the taser gun is subject to criticism in other countries. In the US a number of detainees died after receiving a shock from the weapon. An American study found in 1999 that shocks even weaker than those administered by the taser can induce cardiac arrests in people with a heart condition.

Police in Woerden, however, say the 30-year-old has not suffered any lasting damage from the arrest. The use of taser guns in the Netherlands is experimental, and limited to seven special arrest teams and the military police. The one-year test period is expected to end in May 2010.

BURLINGTON LEAD PROGRAM SEEKS HOME FURNISHINGS

The request via my local Front Porch Forum:

The Burlington Lead Program (BLP) needs your help! Enrollment for BLP services has skyrocketed over the past several months and households undergoing Lead-Hazard Reduction activities require short-term housing during the lead-hazard reduction work. Since most of the tenants that we serve live in the Old North End and do not have access to private transportation, we decided to rent an apartment to provide safe and convenient housing for low-income families.

We will need to furnish this unit over the next few weeks and are asking for anyone who is willing to donate household items to contact us. Among other things, we will be needing beds, a pull-out sofa, a kitchen table and chairs (to name just a few). Any funding we don't need to spend on furnishings, is money that can be continued to be put towards making our community safer through outreach, education and Lead-Hazard Reduction activities.

We greatly appreciate the community's continued support in our efforts to make Burlington a lead-safe community. If you can donate any home furnishings, please contact us at 865-LEAD.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Christian Avard interviews Dennis Perrin

Dennis Perrin, the author of Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War, chats with Christian Avard about Jon Stewart, The Nation magazine's turn to the center, the Palestine-Israel situation, and Dennis' assessment of the first 100 days of Dear Leader's administration. It's in P U L S E, and it's all here.

And while you're at it, Dennis Perrin's blog - http://dennisperrin.blogspot.com/ is also worth following for his commentary and humour.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

International Day Against Homophobia '09

It's tomorrow!

From the House of Le May

Yeah. This is the sixth annual event with this year's theme being "Homosexuality knows no borders." (Maybe that's why I have often been told I've overstepped my bounds?)

So, what are we supposed to do?

The proposed goal for the 2009 Campaign is to make the general population and, more specifically, ethno-cultural communities of all backgrounds more aware of gay and lesbian issues, and sexual diversity. Ethno-cultural communities occupy an increasingly significant place in our societies. What’s more, contributions by these communities are invaluable to our country.

Got it? Do it!

They're not pretending anymore

Israel has wiped Palestine off the map. It's already been done:

Posters have recently appeared in London Underground tube stations advertising Israel as a tourist destination. The map on the advert depicts Israel as incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Both sides await Prop. 8 decision on anniversary of ruling

KTVU.COM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Friday was the one-year anniversary of a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed same-sex marriage - only to be struck down six months later by a voter initiative that made a ban on gay marriage part of the state constitution.

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage are now awaiting a second State Supreme Court decision on whether the initiative itself, enacted by voters Nov. 4 as Proposition 8, was constitutional.

The court heard arguments on the case in San Francisco on March 5 and must issue a ruling no later than June 3.

Weekend Music: YVES DUTEIL



From 24oranges

The city of Amstelveen, next to Amsterdam, has been playing host to an entire week of French cultural events.
And Yves Duteil played last Thursday. I googled him and found the above - wonderful - song on You Tube.

10th Anniversary: Burlington celebrates the useful tools of 'community policing'

From Burlington Free Press
Burlington is approaching its 10th anniversary of community policing — an approach that stresses police-community interaction. Theoretically, community policing is proactive, while the traditional police model, sirens blaring, was reactive....

Some officers are already reaching out. Officer Mike Hemond, for example, posted a message on the Front Porch Forum for the Five Sisters area, providing a link to the department’s Web site, updating residents on graffiti arrests, alerting them that he was going on vacation for a few weeks and making himself available to chat about whatever when he got back. “Heck,” he wrote, “e-mail me in advance, and I’ll bring coffee.”The department’s first Street Crime Unit will start work mid-month, [police chief Michael]Schirling said. Conceived as a floating squad with the ability to respond to spikes in burglaries or drug use or other crimes, it will have uniformed and plain clothes officers emphasizing, as the reassessment reports puts it, “face-to-face contacts with members of the community as well as persons engaged in suspicious, disorderly or criminal behavior.




The family of a Burlington teenager has filed a formal complaint against a city police sergeant alleging the officer fired a stun gun at the boy while he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground this week....

... Schirling said his department acquired Tasers about three years ago, has used them fairly frequently, and they have proved an effective law-enforcement tool. Initially a skeptic, Schirling said seeing the devices in action sold him on their usefulness.

"It is designed to minimize injuries to officers and to people the force is used on," the chief said.
COMMENT: Clearly, inflicting pain from this gadgetry of tyranny works -- for the authority figures.

And, as for community involvement, in the next 10 years we might expect Blockwarts to be recruited by the police for our local Neighborhood Watch programs.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From the 'Where are They Now?' Dept.

Actually, it's from the Guardian

"Boy George has been released from prison four months into a 15-month sentence. The singer, whose real name is George O'Dowd, had been jailed after falsely imprisoning a male escort in his east London flat. He left Edmunds Hill prison in Suffolk yesterday, having been detained there since January.

"The former Culture Club singer was accused of assault and false imprisonment in 2007 by male escort Audun Carlsen. According to Carlsen, O'Dowd handcuffed him to a bed after accusing him of taking photographs from the singer's laptop. In his court testimony, Carlsen said he was then punched and beaten by O'Dowd and another man, before being manacled to a wall. He managed to escape wearing only his underwear, before taking refuge in a local newsagent. The singer was found guilty in December 2008 and sentenced earlier this year."

Gov. Lynch Statement Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

For Immediate Release
May 14, 2009

Gov. Lynch Statement Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Legislation
CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch released the following statement today regarding same-sex legislation in New Hampshire:

“The gay marriage debate in New Hampshire has been filled with passion and emotion on all sides.

“My personal views on the subject of marriage have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing. But as Governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens.

“In the past weeks and months, I have spoken with lawmakers, religious leaders and citizens. My office has received thousands of phone calls, letters and emails. I have studied our current marriage and civil union laws, the laws of other states, the bills recently passed by the legislature and our history and traditions.

“Two years ago, we passed civil unions legislation here in New Hampshire. That law gave same-sex couples in civil unions the same rights and protections as marriage. And in typical New Hampshire fashion, the people of this state embraced civil unions and agreed we needed to continue our tradition of opposing discrimination.

“At its core, HB 436 simply changes the term ‘civil union’ to ‘civil marriage.’ Given the cultural, historical and religious significance of the word marriage, this is a meaningful change.

“I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system. That a civil law that differentiates between their committed relationships and those of heterosexual couples undermines both their dignity and the legitimacy of their families.

“I have also heard, and I understand, the concerns of our citizens who have equally deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage. They fear that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.

“Throughout history, our society’s views of civil rights have constantly evolved and expanded. New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections.

“That is what I believe we must do today.

“But following that tradition means we must act to protect both the liberty of same-sex couples and religious liberty. In their current form, I do not believe these bills accomplish those goals.

“The Legislature took an important step by clearly differentiating between civil and religious marriage, and protecting religious groups from having to participate in marriage ceremonies that violate their fundamental religious beliefs.

“But the role of marriage in many faiths extends beyond the actual marriage ceremony.

“I have examined the laws of other states, including Vermont and Connecticut, which have recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Both go further in protecting religious institutions than the current New Hampshire legislation.

“This morning, I met with House and Senate leaders, and the sponsors of this legislation, and gave them language that will provide additional protections to religious institutions.

“This new language will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions.
It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles.

“If the legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn’t pass these provisions, I will veto it.

“We can and must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity.

“I believe this proposed language will accomplish both of these goals and I urge the legislature to pass it.

Below is the language Gov. Lynch has proposed for the same Sex legislation.

# # #

I. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if such request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage, the celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats, or housing designated for married individuals, and such solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriage is in violation of their religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society.

II. The marriage laws of this state shall not be construed to affect the ability of a fraternal benefit society to determine the admission of members pursuant to RSA 418:5, and shall not require a fraternal benefit society that has been established and is operating for charitable and educational purposes and which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society’s free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States and part 1, article 5 of the Constitution of New Hampshire

III. Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions provided to religious organizations under RSA § 354-A:18.

IV. Repeal. RSA 457-A, relative to civil unions, is repealed effective January 1, 2011, except that no new civil unions shall be established after January 1, 2010.

It's not worth the anger, if no follow-through

North Country Public Radio and Vermont Public Radio, the two NPR affiliates in my area, offer some excellent local (and award-winning) programs, but I get extremely frazzled when I listen to - usually when on the road and rarely on my home radio - the NPR news and pundit programs. An interview with a smug, smart-ass Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money and "bailout" monitor and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren happened over a week ago. TalkLeft calls it "infuriating," which indeed it is. (The comments at TL are also worth a read.) Corrente has a transcript of the ugly parts. I'd never listened to Planet Money or this interview until today. Actually, I admire Warren and think she's a breath of fresh air and definitely spot on in the thankless work she's doing now. I first heard her on Terri Gross's Fresh Air talking about the credit card industry (2007) and the rising costs of credit card debt (2008), and right away, I knew she was worth listening to.

Have you seen NPRCheck? It's a "watch-dog" blog full of gotcha comments by "liberals" and "progressive" listeners people - pissed off by the regular NPR correspondents and news analysts. It's true that NPR has earned the sobriquet "Nice Polite Republicans." I've read NPRCheck occasionally, just for fun, but never really take their rants seriously, because they love to complain, and that's all. I just wish these fuckin' arm-chair liberal types - whingers all - would take the advice of a commenter in the TL discussion on the Warren interview, it's [n]ot worth the anger, if no follow-through
Do what I did -- file a formal complaint with NPR. It does no good to blow our own gaskets merely amongst ourselves; you might as well just shrug your shoulders and move on, for all the good it does.

Rather, we should harness that anger for righteous purpose. If more liberal / progressive listeners complained consistently about the wasted airspace taken up by the biased likes of Adam Davidson, Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts, I guarantee that it would eventually get NPR's attention.
I've commented on programs and have written the (useless, but well-paid) NPR Ombudsman, who rarely responds (with the usual excuses and formula letters). I'm even on some NPR Listen's panel and receive periodic questionnaires via email. I don't hesitate to complain about their biases when I have a chance. NCPR and VPR are always asking for money, but donations cannot be earmarked to local programming. So, next time they ask for a hand-out, I'll tell 'em, don't expect any dosh from me until they - as an affiliate - tell NPR to clean up its act.

(Cross-posted at Antemedius.)

Referendum on Curaçao's future opens old wounds

NRC/international:-

Curaçaoans are being asked to say yes or no to the question: "I approve of the result of the round-table conference to come to an autonomous Curaçao within the kingdom". But the dispute has moved far beyond that proposition.

The negotiations have opened up all sorts of old wounds, and the historic differences within Curaçao society now seem stronger than ever. In a country rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism, the divide between yes and no runs mostly along racial and economic lines. The whiter, richer and more educated people are more likely to vote in favour of the deal, while the less privileged black population leans towards no. Traditionally, it has been the poorer segment of the population that clings to the security of close ties with the Netherlands, while the local intelligentsia says it is fed up with Dutch "interference".

Words from Thomas Merton

The source of life

Daily Reading for May 14

The union of the Christian with Christ is not just a similarity of inclination and feeling, a mutual consent of minds and wills. It has a more radical, more mysterious and supernatural quality: it is a mystical union in which Christ Himself becomes the source and principle of divine life in me. Christ Himself, to use a metaphor based on Scripture, “breathes” in me divinely in giving me His Spirit. The ever renewed mission of the Spirit to the soul that is in the grace of Christ is to be understood by the analogy of the natural breath that keeps renewing, from moment to moment, our bodily life. The mystery of the Spirit is the mystery of selfless love. We receive Him in the “inspiration” of secret love, and we give Him to others in the outgoing of our own charity. Our life in Christ is then a life both of receiving and of giving. We receive from God, in the Spirit, and in the same Spirit we return our love to God through our brothers [and sisters].

From New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New York: New Directions Books, 1961).

[via Speaking to the Soul]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dutch threaten Eurosong boycott over gay rights

NRC/international


'They probably won't make it to the finals, but the Dutch entry for the Eurovision Song Contest - The Toppers - are raising hell over Russia's gay rights record.

'Singer Gordon of the trio The Toppers will boycott Saturday night's Eurovision song contest in Moscow if violence is used against a gay rights march planned for that day. Gordon told a reporter from NOS Dutch public radio: "If people of my kind are being discriminated against in such a way, I have nothing to expect from this Russia, and I will be on the first plane home."

'Russian gay activist groups are seizing the opportunity of the Eurovision song contest - which is hugely popular in the gay community - to organise a march for gay rights. Public demonstrations in support of gays and lesbians are illegal in Russia and the police often crack down on them with violence, or stand by when neo-Nazis attack demonstrators.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh, Sheet!

Radio Netherlands

The [Dutch] Justice Ministry is distributing toilet paper in prisons printed with information on safe sex, hygiene and dealing with aggression. The rolls carry illustrated slogans such as "wash your hands more often" and "always use a condom, also with a blow-job". The one-week trial scheme is aimed at investigating whether this way of providing information could be used to influence prisoner behaviour.

Christian Democrat MP Rikus Jager has raised objections to the scheme with Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak, the Telegraaf newspaper reports. Apart from the extra expense, Mr Jager thinks the explicit toilet paper could distress victims of sexual abuse.



COMMENT: Is this Dutch toilet humour? But just think: The SOS (sex lessons on a sheet) messages could be expanded to schools and hospitals. The Telegraaf reports the scheme has been successful at Rotterdam's Erasmus Hospital ('wash your hands'). America's public health officials take note! Social Libertarians, too!

Photo: Radio Netherlands

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where's the news gone?

From Sam Smith in Undernews

Let's put aside the issue of what's happening to the printed news media for a moment to deal with a more important question: where has the news gone?

Years ago, before the arrival of the Internet, I noticed a phenomenon around the middle of each June: the pile of mail arriving in our office suddenly declined.

The cause was fairly obvious: a drop off in news releases as public relations adjusted its efforts to the thermological nature of our culture. Which is to say, the warmer the weather, the less interested we are in what somebody else is trying to sell.

Then, of course, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas when many sorts of news disappear entirely. A foreigner arriving on such a day and watching TV could logically assume that we were a society with naught but violence and tragedy as the only visible hard news are accidents, murders and fires.

To a journalist, however, such occasions are reminders of how artificial and manipulated much news is. Over the past few months, I have begun to get that same holiday feeling about the news. Ever since Obama was inaugurated, hard news seems to have faded and we find ourselves in deep discussion over his daily activities, his wife's bare arms, other inanities and an amazing assortment of vagaries about what he is planning to do, appoint, go to, or talk about.

It is becoming ever harder to realize that we have recently added a new country to our Muslim war hit list, that job losses are increasing, that the budget is more out of balance than ever, that we will soon have as many troops in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam in 1965, that banks are getting record subsidies while ordinary folk facing foreclosure or job loss are getting minimal aid, and that "health reform" is turning into a TARP program for insurance companies.

Since the media treated Obama as the Second Coming from the beginning, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised about echoes of Christmas coverage, but all holidays have to come to end sometime. It would seem to be a good time for the media to go back to work.

While the media gave Bush a full pass on post 9/11 horrors like the Patriot Act, Gitmo and Iraq, the indifference to real news in the Obama administration extends far beyond matters of falsely purported national security. The lack of interest in Arne Duncan's planned interference in public school systems, the billions for first class high speed rail with little for coach class, rail freight or bus riders, and the highly dangerous medical records act have been left to a few eccentric journals like the Review to even mention. If the print media wants us to cry over its current problems, at least give us some real reporting to be sad at the thought of losing.

Instead, we have a media that falls without fail for various manipulations contrived by the White House, including covering each stage of an Obama decision as though it was new news, i.e.

"Obama is talking about. . . "
"Obama is consulting with. . ."
"Obama is reaching out to various groups. . . "
"Obama is planning to. . . "
"Obama is expected to announce on Monday that. . . "

And, finally, yet another repetitive front page story beginning, "Obama has announced. . . "

Not bad. A half dozen stories that lead you to an announcement that you can't quite figure out what it means anyway.

Which, of course, is intentional. Which is why we look forward to 3.5 million jobs created or "saved" by Obama, as the media treats the preservation of the status quo as news and a great achievement.

Or take the promised two trillion dollars saved by the health insurance industry over a ten year period. This in a media that doesn't even care who won the last American Idol.

As a general rule, political predictions of greater than two years should be banned entirely by the media. That might free up a little space to help people understand how we ended up in a war in Pakistan without any debate or congressional vote or when the subsidies of the Wall Street welfare fathers is going to end. After all, these were the guys who told us - with unquestioning support of the mainstream media - that free markets would take care of it all.

But as long as the media sees its role as Obama's Ryan Seacrest, it won't happen. It will just remain on a perpetual holiday.