Monday, August 31, 2009

Vermont: Solidarity in the Face of Hate Speech

Convened by members of local religious congregations, there will be a Community Meeting of Solidarity in the Face of Hate Speech Monday, August 31st, 2009, 7:30 pm, at the First Congregational Church in Burlington. On the eve of the implementation of Vermont's marriage equity law, this will be an opportunity for Vermonters to share in reflective and prayerful affirmation of human equality and free and fair speech. For more information, please contact Rabbi Joshua Chasan, rabbijoshua@ohavizedek.com, 864-0218.

Houston, we have a problem

DutchNews.nl

A lump of rock from moon given to prime minister Willem Drees by the US ambassador in 1969 is actually a piece of petrified wood, the Parool reports on Monday.

The piece of rock, which was kept on the prime minister's desk and later donated to the Rijksmuseum, was given to the Netherlands by ambassador J. William Middendorf II to commemorate the first moon landing, the paper says.

But Rijksmuseum scientists say the rock is simply fossilised wood. And, the museum's Xandra van Gelder points out, the accompanying document did not state it was moon rock, but simply 'to commemorate' the landing.

The Parool says a space expert had already pointed out that the stone could not be real during an exhibition in 2006. 'Neil Armstrong was only on the moon for 30 minutes and gathered up a few moon rocks which are all now with Nasa,' he was quoted as saying at the time.

The paper says the US ambassador does not remember anything about the rock apart from that it had been given to him by the state department and that Drees was extremely pleased with it.

Van Gelder says the rock will remain in the museum's collection but its value has been revised down from €50,000 to a few euros.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dumbed Down Democracy at its Worst

Grandmère Mimi has written about a health care town hall meeting in Louisiana hosted by Sen. Mary Landrieu. Lord have mercy! It's a lengthy post. She's a brave soul. Here's the gist of her afternoon experience:
I asked her if she thought health care was a moral issue, and she told me that she did and that her husband made quite a lot of money and why should her tax money go to pay for the health care of others, including deadbeats? That was the moral of her story. I tried to explain about what insurance was for, that it was about spreading cost and risk, but that got nowhere. She continued to get angrier and angrier and more and more in my face, until she was screaming and waving her sign so close that I thought she would hit me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chomsky meets Chavez

Mérida, August 27th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- 'U.S. author, dissident intellectual, and Professor of Linguistics at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Noam Chomsky met for the first time with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas and analyzed hemispheric politics during a nationally televised forum on Monday'.... more

The Allure of Top Gun Video games as Anodyne

David Sirota in Common Dreams:-
"New polls show the country strongly opposes the Afghanistan and Iraq wars - but military officials want to preserve the possibility of an escalation in Afghanistan and a permanent deployment in Iraq. So the Pentagon is ...seeking an opiate to placate the war-averse populace. What better anodyne than a marketing campaign implying wars are fun video games?"
---
"While sanitizing ads play to the country's growing disgust with militarism, they could ultimately lead us to be more supportive of militarism. How? By convincing us that violence can be just another innocuous expression of adolescent technophilia.

If we end up thinking that, we will have once again forgotten what all wars, even the justifiable ones, always are: lamentable human tragedies."
Related, Thom Engelhardt on the G.I. Joe phenomenon:
Nobody's mentioned it, but the most impressive thing about the new movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, comes last -- the eight minutes or so of credits which make it clear that, to produce a twenty-first century shoot-em-up, you need to mobilize a veritable army of experts. There may be more "compositors" than actors and more movie units (Prague Unit, Prague Second Unit, Paris Unit) than units of Joes.

As the movie theater empties, those credits still scroll inexorably onward, like a beachhead in eternity, the very eternity in American cultural life that G.I. Joe already seems to inhabit. The credits do, of course, finally end -- and on a note of gratitude that, almost uniquely in the film, evokes an actual history. "The producers also wish to thank the following," it says, and the list that follows is headed by the Department of Defense, which has been "advising" Hollywood on how to make war movies -- with generous loans of equipment, troops, consultants, and weaponry in return for script "supervision" -- since the silent era.

Laura Dekker's solo voyage around the world is on hold


NRC/international

The Utrecht district court On Friday put 13-year-old Laura Dekker under the supervision of a youth welfare organisation, but it stopped short of divesting parental authority.

With the support of her parents, Laura wants to sail around the world solo for the next two years and become the youngest person ever to do so. But the Child Protection Authority filed for custody over Laura in order to stop her.

Laura's lawyer Peter de Lange has advised her to stay ashore for now, and cooperate with the two-month investigation the juvenile court has ordered.

Laura herself was not present at the court in Utrecht. "Because of the media madness. You can't do that to a young girl," De Lange said.
Share/Save/Bookmark

Dozens of reporters, photographers and camera crews from the Netherlands and abroad showed up at the ruling. Laura's father and caretaker Dick Dekker attended, but he let his lawyer do the talking.

The court said a solo sailing voyage around the world deviates so far from what is normal for a 13-year-old girl that it could be a severe threat to her development. It also voiced doubts that she will be able to sustain the extreme conditions on the oceans.

However, it also said that "parents have a large degree of freedom when it comes to raising and looking after their children. Only in exceptional situations is the government allowed to intervene."

The court ruled this is not a case of "gross neglect" and chose not to divest parental authority. "The way Laura's father raises her has been the topic of intense public debate, but that doesn't make him a bad father," the court said.

Laura lives on a boat with her father. Her parents are separated and her mother and younger sister Kim live in another part of the Netherlands. The mother has chosen to stay out of the picture, but she did give a statement before the court explaining she considered the plan "scary", but doesn't want to stand in her daughter's way.

For the next two months her parents' authority will be limited by the provisional supervision of a youth welfare organisation. A guardian will be appointed to make all the important decisions for the girl, such as matters of schooling, heath and - of course - traveling around the world on a boat.

The Child Protection Authority will investigate Laura over the next two months and the court has assigned her an independent child psychologist who will investigate whether the teenager can deal with the psychological pressure and if she would be able to educate herself on board.

Laura's case was brought to public attention by a school official who observed that Laura would be missing school for two years. All Dutch children are obliged by law to attend school until they are 16 years of age. Their parents are required to ensure they are enrolled in school and actually attend classes.

Based on the results of the investigation, the court will rule again in October. It is then up to the CPA to demonstrate why it believes Laura should not be allowed to make the journey.

Laura initially planned to leave the Netherlands around September 1 in order to break the world-record set by 17-year-old Mike Perham, who completed his trip on Thursday.

Dekker and her father had also said they would deregister her from the Netherlands to circumvent the Dutch authorities, but officials in New Zealand - of which she is also a citizen - have said they too would try to stop her.

Her lawyer said she now plans to depart from Portugal if the supervision is terminated in two months, in order to avoid the heavy storms in the Bay of Biscay during the fall.

"If Laura ends up winning this case, she can be an example to all young athletes," De Lange said.

UPDATED: Well, Kiss my Royal Wooden Shoes!

UPDATED (Update below)

NRC/international

Pictures of the Dutch crown prince Willem-Alexander and his family on vacation in Argentina can no longer be distributed by the Associated Press, the Amsterdam district court ruled on Friday.

The US press agency last month released four shots of Willem-Alexander, princess Maximá and one of their three daughters while they were on a ski vacation in Argentina. The court ruled this has put "an unacceptable pressure" on their family life.

"They should not have to constantly be prepared that private photographs will be offered to media," the court ruled. Only if the images have news value or contribute to the public debate about a social topic, can an exception be made, it said.

AP had argued that it should be able to distribute photos of a public figure made in a public place, claiming the images were taken from a "respectful" distance" and outside the Netherlands.

Dutch media have agreed to a so-called media code, which says that only pictures of Willem-Alexander and Maximá taken while they are "in function" may be published. In exchange, the royals regularly pose for pre-arranged "photo ops".

Several Dutch newspapers published the AP photos. Dutch public broadcaster NOS said it only showed the pictures after they had become a topic of public debate in their own right.


UPDATE:

From CBS News, Associated Press filed report. AP statement embedded in the report:

The AP expressed disappointment and said it would "review this ruling with its counsel and evaluate appropriate next steps."
---
In its response, the AP said it believed the decision "failed to give due weight to the importance of freedom of information in a democratic society, particularly with respect to the public actions of public officials and public figures."

In a statement from its New York headquarters, AP said the ruling "would have the unfortunate effect of unduly restraining the exercise of freedom of information globally, and seeks to create a real risk that the public might be kept in the dark in relation to activities about which it has a right to know.

"The decision also seeks to impose an undue and unprecedented burden on a global news operation like the Associated Press and fails to recognize that individual publishers make the actual and final determination whether publication of particular information is justified within any given jurisdiction," it said.

Democracy Now! 'Pentagon Hires Rendon Group to Profile and Rate Journalists Covering Afghanistan War'

Democracy Now! has the story with video:
The US Army in Afghanistan has admitted it pays a private company to produce background profiles on journalists covering the war. The Pentagon has been on the defensive ever since the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes revealed this week that journalists were being screened by the Washington-based public relations firm, the Rendon Group, under a $1.5 million contract with the military. Documents obtained by the paper reveal journalists were evaluated with pie charts breaking down their coverage into percentages of “positive,” “neutral” or “negative.”
Stars and Stripes 08/27/09: 'Files prove Pentagon is profiling reporters' and updated in the same paper 08/28/09: 'Pentagon: Reporter profiling under review'

Klein disowns Winterbottom adaptation of 'Shock Doctrine'



FROM THE INDEPENDENT
Neither is afraid of controversy. So when the filmmaker Michael Winterbottom was picked to direct a storming screen adaptation of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine, which takes a hatchet to free market capitalism, Ms Klein heartily approved.

But Winterbottom's work, which is to be broadcast on Channel 4 on 1 September, has led to such insurmountable creative tensions that Klein, who originally came on board to narrate the film and act as a consultant, does not appear in the credits as a writer or consultant, or act as its narrator.

Klein, who is believed to have wanted more interviews and have less narration in the film, was not present at its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year and does not mention the film on her website. She conceded yesterday that there had been major differences in opinion as the project developed. "I can confirm that the original idea was for me to write and narrate the film," she told The Independent. "For that to have worked out, however, there would have needed to be complete agreement between the directors and myself about the content, tone and structure of the film.

"As often happens, we had different ideas about how to tell this story and build the argument. This is Michael's adaptation of my book, and I didn't want there to be any confusion about that. I wish the film success."
Johann Hari in the same newspaper writes 'Klein's account of this "disaster capitalism" is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. So what happened to the film? Winterbottom serves up a cold porridge of archive footage and soundbites that have some vague link to the book, without the connecting spine of Klein's explanations. It is as though an idiot has explained the book to another idiot, who then made a film.'

New in town

Just added to the side-bar is a new local - Burlington - blog, Suburban Empire, written by luke. Good snark, well-researched, too. I like its first post about security alarm rip-offs. Go:read.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scientists uncover new ocean threat from plastics

THE INDEPENDENT:- Scientists have identified a new source of chemical pollution released by the huge amounts of plastic rubbish found floating in the oceans of the world. A study has found that as plastics break down in the sea they release potentially toxic substances not found in nature and which could affect the growth and development of marine organisms.

Until now it was thought that plastic rubbish is relatively stable chemically and, apart from being unsightly, its principle threat to living creatures came from its ability to choke or strangle any animals that either got caught in it or ingested it thinking it was food.

But the latest research suggests that plastic is also a source of dissolved substances that can easily become widely dispersed in the marine environment. Many of these chemicals are believed to toxic to humans and animals, the scientists said.

The last of the progressives

Dennis Perrin lays it out.
You can say a lot of negative things about Ted Kennedy that were true, but the man was as much of a progressive force as this rotten system allows. With his wealth, Kennedy could've easily been a Republican and pushed for more perks for the rich. Instead, he championed the powerless and left behind. Maybe he was sincere. Maybe not. But to me, Ted Kennedy was one of the few politicians who genuinely lifted my spirits, and dare I say it, hopes. Another part of my youth has died. RIP Senator Kennedy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Connections Count in Obamaland

According to the website of the Dutch Royal House (Dutch), U.S Ambassador to The Netherlands, Fay Hartog-Levin, has presented her credentials to the queen today. NRC/international reports today that Ms. Hartog-Levin has traveled a very interesting road indeed. She has Dutch roots.
Hartog-Levin's parents were Dutch Jews who lived in The Hague and owned a meat-processing factory in Oss. When World War II broke out, they fled to Suriname, then a Dutch colony, where her father served in the Dutch army. In 1948 the family emigrated to the US, where daughter Fay was born shortly afterwards.
Those Dutch family roots notwithstanding, the newspaper highlights her connections to the Chicago elite and US pols.

She became acquainted with Obama through her membership on the board of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.
She is also connected to the president through her husband, Daniel Levin, who founded a real estate firm, The Habitat Company. Habitat's CEO until recently was Valerie Jarrett, a good friend of the Obamas and currently a senior adviser to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs. Jarrett was also on Obama's transition team.

Levin, who is a cousin to both senator Carl Levin and congressman Sandy Levin, was also on the board of the Chicago sports club where president Obama often worked out and played basket-ball. The Hartog-Levins were contributors to Barack Obama's campaigns for both the US senate and the presidency.
Not surprising at all, Hartog-Levin's new position is typical of US ambassadorial appointments. Even Obamafreaks who rallied for his message of change will find that money trumps merit.

From the sidebar in the NRC report, a list of previous ambassadors to The Netherlands:

All the president's men and women

  • Most US ambassadors to the Netherlands have come from a business background and were involved in fundraising for their respective presidents' election campaigns.

  • Fay Hartog-Levin replaces James B. Culbertson as US ambassador. Culbertson was only in office for six months; he replaced his predecessor Roland Arnall who suddenly died in March last year. Arnall left the Netherlands after two years just weeks before his own death because his son had taken seriously ill. Arnall was controversial because his company, Ameriquest, was the market leader in the high-risk subprime mortgages which led to the current economic crisis.

  • Arnall's predecessor Clifford Sobel was a donor to former president George W. Bush's campaign.

  • The last female US ambassador to the Netherlands was Cynthia Schneider (1998-2001), an art historian specialised in Rembrandt, and a personal friend and fundraiser to president Bill Clinton.
  • Cross posted at Antemedius and The Peace Tree.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    No Give, No Take and No Cigar

    Why the fuck did this guy even want to be President?
    Privately, White House aides have communicated to the House leadership that the onus on changing minds about the public plan is on Congress, not on the president.
    ...
    The president continues to operate under the belief that liberals will warm to the bill when presented with a goodybag that includes includes an individual mandate, community rating, guaranteed issue, and a minimum required package. There's no chance, really, that a bill WON'T feature these reforms. Quietly, to secure and keep Democrats on board, the White House is going to bargain, providing inducements, like more money for favored projects, etc., in order to secure individual votes.

    Ironic Quote of the Day

    In an article in yesterday's New York Times, Republican senator Chuck Grassley wants to prohibit medical ghostwriting and force changes in corporate pharmaceutical companies’ involvement with research papers.
    A growing body of evidence suggests that doctors at some of the nation’s top medical schools have been attaching their names and lending their reputations to scientific papers that were drafted by ghostwriters working for drug companies — articles that were carefully calibrated to help the manufacturers sell more products.

    Experts in medical ethics condemn this practice as a breach of the public trust. Yet many universities have been slow to recognize the extent of the problem, to adopt new ethical rules or to hold faculty members to account
    Wait, here's the irony - quoting the NYT story by Natasha Singer - who's she fooling? (my emphasis in bold)
    With a letter last week, a senator who helps oversee public funding for medical research signaled that he was running out of patience with the practice of ghostwriting. Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has led a long-running investigation of conflicts of interest in medicine, is starting to put pressure on the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice.
    I just wonder if he'll call for an investigation into himself. The senator, a staunch opponent of health care reform, in his career has received his most campaign donations from the insurance industy, health care professionals, hospitals/nursing homes, health services/HMO's - and Big Pharma. I'm running out of patience with sen. Grassley. He's a crooked pol.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Water Crimes

    Clever anti-water fluoridation video/song by a New Zealand singer.

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Summertime, the Weather is Hot & Blood Donors are Needed

    Blood banks across U.S.are seeing a decrease in donations. It's been a perennial challenge to maintain blood on the shelves in the summer months.
    Some of the blood banks operating in Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, California and Illinois have reported a decline in blood collections because of the cancellation of company drives. The decrease in blood drives held in conjunction with businesses will have a serious effect because donors like to give blood at locations that are convenient for them, AABB spokeswoman Jennifer Garfinkel said, but for now the nation's blood supply is keeping up with demand, without resorting to emergency appeals.

    (Source: USA Today)

    Episcopal Church and Health Care: Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly Digest. And Write your Congressional Rep!

    I think sometimes that resolutions voted on at church meetings can be ineffective. Regarding health care initiatives, the Episcopal Church is "on record" on this issue ... passing these two resolutions in Anaheim:

    C071: Health Care Coverage for All
    D048: Adoption of a "Single Payer" Universal Health Care Program

    Faithful Episcopalians who take their Baptismal Covenant seriously should
    write their reps today.

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Yee Haw! (UPDATED)

    UPDATE: The UFW has a petition you can sign.
    ------
    Even when I lived in Texas, I was shocked by the absolute power the Texas Board of Education have in choosing books for the schools curricula. Ten years later, it's still influenced by conservative ideologues. It's extremely embarrassing at times to tell people that I lived there.

    From Religion Dispatches, a story about the Christianist Texas Taliban at work.
    Texas Board of Education Wants to Change History

    If any question remains about the religious and political motivations of certain members of the Texas Board of Education, one need only read the words of their social studies curriculum experts.

    Rev. Peter Marshall (one of their appointed academic experts), for example, wants to restore America, according to the Web site of his Massachusetts-based ministry, “to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America’s Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.” He also believes that Hurricane Katrina, Watergate, and the Vietnam War are the result of divine wrath.

    As part of his curriculum review for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills process, Marshall issued an assessment of a Grade 5 history section in which students are asked to “describe the accomplishments of significant colonial leaders such as Anne Hutchinson, William Penn, John Smith, and Roger Williams.”

    Marshall, along with his fellow reviewer David Barton, did not believe that students in the public education system should learn about Hutchinson:

    Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen. She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn’t accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble. (emphasis added)

    One of the original Puritans, Hutchinson disagreed with some of the scriptural teachings of the religious leaders and began hosting her own Bible study classes in her home. For this crime, Hutchinson was placed on trial and banished from her community. Later, she and her exiled family were killed in a Siwanoy attack.

    “This is a prime example of somebody who believed in religious freedom and was persecuted for that,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

    Certainly, there can be legitimate debate regarding the amount of prominence Hutchinson should receive in the Texas educational system. But describing a woman kicked out of her community for wanting to worship God in her own way as “making trouble” reveals much about what Marshall and his supporters really think about the principle of religious freedom.

    The irony, of course, is that these are the same men who argue forcefully that educators must do a better job at teaching this nation’s Christian heritage.

    Read all of "Texas Board of Education Wants to Change History"

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    IRAQ : Disastrous and Shocking Official Statistics...

    Via Media Lens MB and I have no reason to doubt these stats.

    August 07 ,2009
    By Sabah Al-Baghdadi

    Translated and adapted from Arabic by Khalil Nakhleh

    The following official governmental statistics, up to December 2008, show the disastrous conditions prevalent in Iraq since the American invasion and occupation of that country.

    1. One million widowed Iraqi women (according to Iraqi Ministry of Women Affairs).

    2. Four million orphaned Iraqi children (according to estimates by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning).

    3. Two and a half million (2,500,000) Iraqis killed (according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Forensic Medicine).

    4. 800,000 Iraqis have disappeared in secret holding places connected with the different ruling parties (according to registered complaints at the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior).

    5. 340,000 Iraqi prisoners, detained without charge, in U.S. army prisons, the prisons of the Iraqi government, and the prisons in the Kurdistan District (according to Iraqi, Arab, international and UN human rights organizations and agencies). US occupying forces admit officially that the number of Iraqi detainees in their prisons is about 120,000.

    6. Four and a half million (4,500,000) Iraqis are refugees outside Iraq (according to statistics of those seeking passports (category C) from the General Directorate of Passports.

    7. Two and a half million (2,500,000) Iraqis are refugees inside Iraq (according to the Iraqi Ministry of Refugees).

    8. 76,000 registered Iraqi cases of AIDS; this number did not exceed 114 cases before the invasion and occupation of Iraq (according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health).

    9. Frightening spread of the use of addictive drugs imported from Iran, among youth (according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Center for Combating Drugs and Addictions). I have written a series of well-researched articles about the various methods used to smuggle drugs, some of which are highly toxic, and how they are collected in different storage places in the southern districts, under the total control of some of the parties and the militias participating in the government, and how the profits from these drugs are used to buy (pay off) government officials, in order to gain their support and silence, and to finance their election campaigns.

    10. Three out of every four marriages end up in divorce since the invasion and occupation of Iraq (according to Iraqi Ministry of Health).
    .............

    Read full article.

    Cross posted at Antemedius and The Peace Tree.

    UPDATED: Democratic Dog Daze & Health Care

    SEE UPDATE BELOW

    Exerpts from commentaries by bloggers I read regularly and trust:

    Louis Proyect
    When the evening newscast the other night was showing footage of the chaos at another one of these town meetings, I told my wife that it reflected the basic difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats do everything they can to demobilize their base, who are seen as inconvenient and extraneous to their main way of getting things done, namely through closed door meetings with corporate executives and nonprofit honchos over how to screw the American people while giving the opposite impression. Meanwhile, the Republicans are much more reliant on an activist base because their social support is much narrower. As a party that rules directly and openly in the interests of the moneyed elite, it requires all sorts of grass roots organization to push its filthy agenda forward.
    ---
    Obama will do everything in his power to convince those who voted for him to remain patient while he carries out what amounts to a third Bush term, but there will be more and more defensive measures by the poor and the working class in defense of its own class interests. One can be reasonably assured that the level of discontent in the US will rise despite the African-American President’s clear gift for demagogy and deception.
    Richard Estes at American Leftist:
    But there are exceptions. Jane Hamsher and the gang at firedoglake don't just put out a liberal line on issues like the wars in the Middle East and health care reform, they urge their allies to lobby and protest in support of those issues. Now, mind you, as a leftist, I have some significant disagreements with the people who post at firedoglake. After all, I'm a leftist, and they are liberals. However, I respect the fact that they are actively challenging the Democratic Party, as represented in the White House and Congress, to adopt their perspective. They don't play the game of talking liberal and then letting elected Democrats vote moderate to conservative. For example, they call out people who try to create the appearance of supporting progressive health care reform, while facilitating the opposite.

    As you might have guessed, the people at firedoglake have selected health care reform as the make or break issue for the Obama presidency. They have organized a focused effort to pressure Democrats in the House to demand a strong public option as an essential component of any health care proposal that goes to the President. Now, they are encouraging people to attend town hall meetings this month to counteract the presence of right wing protesters. This is a critical issue, because a strong public option, one that gives people the opportunity to select a government operated plan instead of ones provided by the insurance industry, is necessary to pressure insurers and health care providers to keep costs down. Even opponents of the public option acknowledge it. Indeed, they believe that the government option would be so efficient as to result in the de facto creation of a single payer system.

    Unfortunately, it's not going to happen, because the President doesn't want it to happen. Nor does his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The consequences of this failure, as noted by Hamsher last Monday, are serious:

    According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, there are 52 million Americans currently without health insurance. We are a country in crisis. If the government cannot respond by delivering a public plan with a President who campaigned on creating one, a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate, a Speaker of the House who has committed to doing so and majority support in both parties among the public, then we do not live in a representative democracy any more. The country is ungovernable.


    libhom at GLH
    We are allowing ourselves to be backed into a corner by the far right tactics. There must be another way, and there is.

    We need to strongly attack and condemn the far right for what they are doing. But, that must not stop us from speaking out against policies of center right Democrats that are far too similar to the corporatist agenda of the last 29 years. Speaking out against conservative policies pushed by Democrats also has the beneficial tactic of raising questions in the minds of some of the rightists as to just how "liberal" the Democratic Party leadership really is.

    We are in a difficult situation, but losing our nerve only makes things worse. Failing to learn from our mistakes during the Clinton Administration is not a luxury liberals or this country can afford.


    UPDATE - With thanks to Broadsides (also recommended), I'm adding some well-chosen thoughts by David Lindorff
    This is not about civil discourse. This is about propaganda. The Obama administration and the Democratic Congressional leadership have sold out health care reform for the tainted coin of the medical-industrial industry, and are holding, or trying to hold, these meetings around the country to promote legislation that has essentially been written for them by that industry--legislation that will force everyone to pay for insurance as offered, and priced, by the private insurance industry. What a deal for those companies--a captive market of 300 million people! There will be little or no effort to control prices, and the higher costs will be financed through higher taxes, and through cuts in Medicare benefits.

    This isn't "reform." It's corruption, pure and simple.

    Any mention of a system that works--single payer--the system we already have in the form of Medicare for the elderly and disabled, and the system that has proved successful for almost four decades in Canada-- has been systematically blocked and censored out of the discussion. Every effort has been made to bury an excellent bill, HR 676, offered up by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), which would cover every American by simply expanding Medicare to cover everyone.

    The only proper response at this point is obstruction, and the more militant and boisterous that obstruction, the better.

    Instead of opposing the right-wing hecklers at these events, progressives should be making common cause with them. Instead of calling them fascists, we should be working to turn them, by showing them that the enemy is not the left; it is the corporations that own both Democrats and Republicans alike.

    Last night in Sheikh Jarrahm, East Jerusalem

    In Sheikh Jarrahm, East Jerusalem 100s of people gathered on August 10th for a candle light vigil in solidarity with Palestinians who have lost their homes. The director of Rabbis for Human Rights was arrested violently along with another women. Here's a video report by Joseph Dana:

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Yes, it's the anniversary of Hiroshima

    John Pilger has written a terrific article to commemorate the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (6 August, 1945).

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    Streetwise Dogs

    The unique relationship between humans and dogs provides the opportunity to infer details about ancient people.

    Watch this from the National Science Foundation about streetwise dogs.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Burlington Politics: No Show Officials


    I am extremely disappointed that only one of the three public safety committee members was in attendance at last night's fluoride hearing. Especially since board of health members showed up to speak to their resolution passed by the board in January to remove fluoride from the city's water supply.

    The Board of Health has limited statutory responsibility for the “prevention, removal or destruction of public health hazards and the mitigation of public health risks.” The Board of Health receives its authority from Vermont statute, Title 18, as well as from several sections of the Burlington City Charter. - Burlington Board of Health Statement of Purpose

    My remarks last night to the public safety committee:
    We can make resolutions, enact laws to regulate, even decrease the ppm of fluoride in our water,- as the city council has ordered - just to be safe. But we need to start looking at fluoride not just as a medication, but as a dangerous industrial product being added - untested - to our water. There have been no toxicological studies done on hydrofluorosilicic acid.

    The following are questions that you and the other councilors should consider when you review our resolution and take your decision.

    Why contaminate Burlington’s high quality drinking water with hydrofluorosilicic acid and its known co-contaminants
    when other abundant, higher grade sources of fluoride remain available through toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental-fluoride treatments, all of which we do not swallow?

    Keep in mind that fluoride has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for swallowing.

    As it is illegal to dump hydrofluorosilicic acid anywhere in our environment, how are we justifying dumping it into Burlington’s drinking water supply? Aren’t our residents entitled to safe drinking water?

    Are we honestly interested in the health and well-being of Burlington’s children when we take the cheapest industrial man-made toxic waste fluoride we can find, and dump it into our children’s drinking water?

    Why are we listening to local dentists, Vermont Dental Society members, about systemic ingestion? This is a question I pose to my own dentist at each visit: Shouldn’t we be seeking advice from leading chemists, toxicologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, epidemiologists, oncologists, pathologists, and so forth – who are shedding new medical light on the dangers of artificial water fluoridation, and the synergistic health harms these chemicals pose in our water?

    Why are we listening to the ADA, the Vermont Dental Society and other dental associations - all heavy
    promoters of water fluoridation - when they hold no official responsibility or accountability for Burlington’s water fluoridation practice, policy or chemical additives? Doesn’t responsibility for what Burlington ultimately chooses to put into the drinking water rest squarely with the city?


    Another question I pose to my dentist on each visit - and now ask you: What formal training do dentists have about the effects water fluoridation is having on our body organs and tissues, beyond the oral cavity? What formal training do dentists have concerning hydrofluorosilicic acid?

    What gives Burlington the moral, ethical or legal right to inflict admitted mild to moderate dental fluorosis on any person, due to its water fluoridation practice at the ‘optimal’ level? What is your municipal financial plan for Burlington, should affected people pursue and achieve legal class action status and monetary award?

    How will Burlington address the problem of known elevated blood lead levels due to accelerated lead leaching from leaded solder, leaded pipes and leaded brass fittings – caused by the highly corrosive hydrofluorosilicic acid put in the water distribution system at the suggested concentration?

    Where has Burlington provided any cost accounting to offer ongoing fluoride-free bottled water, or home distillation system, or home reverse osmosis system; to those persons or families paying for municipal drinking water, but unable to drink fluoridated water? As a member of the local City Market co-op, I can refill my empty containers with fresh, filtered fluoride-free water at no cost. But not all Burlington members are co-op members. Does the municipality only value equality and equity for certain identifiable groups, but not others?

    In Praise of British GI Resister Joe Glenton

    Any really successful anti-war movement requires this kind of dissent.

    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    The deepening environmental crisis

    Sunday Herald (Scotland): "A new report highlights the biggest problems now facing the world. It warns that the environmental crisis is deepening every year. Human consumption is now 30% larger than nature’s capacity to regenerate. By 2015 the number of people suffering climate-related disasters could mushroom to more than 375 million a year. By 2030 as many as 660 million people could be affected, with economic losses rising to $340 billion a year. There are currently 15 wars taking place and the report predicts that 3 billion people will have no access to water by 2025."

    Recommended that you click the link above to read the entire article.

    Protest after shooting at Israeli LBGT Youth Club, 2 deaths


    "First it was violence against Palestinians, then it was violence against Israeli peace activists, now it is also violence against homosexuals. You know where it starts, but you have no idea where it ends!"

    Joseph Dana/ibn Ezra

    Yesterday there was a shocking and horrifying terrorist attack against the gay and lesbian community that killed 2 young people and injured 15 more at a gay community center in the heart of Tel Aviv. The shooter is still out on the loose so although we don’t know his identity yet, it is easy to speculate it is an extreme rightwing and/or religious person. This is a hate crime and the clearest example of a terrorist attack since the shooter entered an unmarked building where he knew a meeting was taking place and it was in a basement, where the youth had no where to run to. The Israeli media should and must call it that. It doesn’t have to be an Israeli-Palestinian clash for it to warrant the term “terrorist attack.”

    At the recent gay pride parade in Jerusalem last month – massively diminished in size and vigor since the 2005 stabbing of several people by a religious Jew – a small but noisy crowd chanted anti-gay slurs and held signs calling gays beasts and perverts. Two prominent figures of the settlement movement that we am unfortunately all too familiar with were there. Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, both of whom live in the Israeli-occupied Hebron area and have, on repeated occasions, attacked Jewish-Israeli peace activists. In addition to physical violence, we have seen and heard Ben-Gvir verbally abuse Ezra Nawi for being homosexual, calling him a pervert and accusing him of raping little children. This is not isolated. In most places where we have come into contact with settlers, we have heard them equate our leftwing views with homosexuality, calling us disgusting and wimpy liberals who like it “up the ass.”

    This morning, just hours after last night’s terror attack in Tel Aviv, the Palestinian Hanoun family of Sheikh Jarrah was physically evicted from their home by Israeli police and in their place, Jewish settler families (comprised mostly of teenage boys resembling classic hilltop youth) entered in their place. It is no coincidence that these events happened so closely together, as clearly the police and settlers who took over these houses in East Jerusalem are aware the media would be dominated by the murders in Tel Aviv.

    Take these recent incidents and add them to the violent weekly protests of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem against the opening of parking garages; the violent protests and death threats with regard to the ultra-Orthodox mother who obviously neglected her child; the pipe bomb that exploded at Professor and peace activist Ze’ev Sternhall’s home last September; rightwing Knesset members organizing protests in Arab villages and participating in rallies shouting racist slurs against Obama that include the presence of outlawed Kahane enthusiasts; the settlers continued violence against Palestinians and Israelis and the IDF in the occupied West Bank, which includes children barely potty-trained throwing rocks at fellow Jews; and the murder of Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir – and what you get is a clear picture of a trend that combines religious, messianic Judaism with the settling of the Land of Israel with violent rejections of democracy, liberalism and equal rights that is being waged against gays, lesbians, peace activists, academics and of course all Palestinians.

    First it was violence against Palestinians, then it was violence against Israeli peace activists, now it is also violence against homosexuals. You know where it starts, but you have no idea where it ends!


    Saturday, August 1, 2009

    Sewanee launches Center for Religion and Environment

    The Rev. Phina Borgeson, Episcopal News Service correspondent for science and the environmen writes in Episcopal Life:

    The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, has announced the creation of the Center for Religion and Environment, which connects its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Theology, and All Saints Chapel in a partnership to strengthen its mission in education, church and society. [...]

    In an interview with ENS, Gottfried mused about the kind of programs the center might offer that could help dioceses and congregations involved in creation care. One possibility could be to provide resources for best practices, he said. The center might also foster environmental formation at various levels, such as for Bible study leaders and youth ministers seeking to strengthen eco-spirituality in their programs.

    This is exciting news from Sewanee regarding The Episcopal Church's expanding mission to promote environmental stewardship. '...to bring together the resources of the university to address the challenge he calls "environmental formation" -- integrating "faith, practice, and the understanding of environmental issues for our students."

    And Sewanee already has in place:

    Sewanee's unique mix of resources includes its management of the Domain, 13,000 acres of sustainably managed and protected wild land on Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau which serves as a living laboratory for environmental sciences. The Domain also provides an experiential grounding and source of inspiration for those working on spiritualities of creation care or environmental policy. According to Gottfried, an environmental theology requires an experiential, not just an intellectual, grounding.