Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam Execution - Brought to Account?

Breaking News: Saddam 'executed in Iraq'

This all reminds me of the Live Hanging sketch in The Day Today, with the 1950's commentator in his suit:

"And yes, yes... the lights have gone out... it's a good clean drop!"
"There's the hanging. Well done, well done. They'll be pleased with that."

Considering how much the US interfered and 'helped' them with their new constitution, the fact this trial was conducted under that new constitution, and the fact defence lawyers were killed, the judge changed on the orders of the Government, there's loads of reasons to disagree with it as well as the obvious moral issues.

Execution is a nice convenient word for murder by so called legal means.

Also convicting someone of state-sanctioned murder, and then punishing them with state-sanctioned murder is hardly a good start for a new democracy!

It's just going to make things worse, and divide the country more.

And it's frankly laughable to talk about Iraq's rights as it's own country after we invaded a sovereign state!

No to The Southern Connector!

Today was the deadline for submitting comments about the proposed Southern Connecter through the South End of Burlington. Here's the text of the letter I emailed to the state transportation agency.

I am a resident of Ward 5 in Burlington and am against the construction of the Southern Connector in Burlington. It will not relieve traffic. The proposed parkway may relieve truck traffic in some neighborhoods but it would only do so by moving that traffic to other neighborhoods (I live in Lakeside). We don't want more traffic in our city. Have you people ever heard of a carbon footprint?

I am a member of the Burlington Board of Health and am concerned about the environmental impact of building the Connector. Not only will we have increased long-term maintenance costs, exhaust pollution, traffic and noise, additionally, Burlington will have to pay for increased run-off pollution (effecting Lake Champlain) - already a serious and costly problem in the South End. Building this construction project will not make Burlington a green city!

My suggestion is to move the proposed South End (sic) Transit Center at the end of the current I-189 ramp (at the intersection with Home Avenue) and increase the public transportation (monorail, mini-buses) to downtown to accomodate commuters and residents along the route. Look to the long-term future and not just some short-term band-aid to "fix" traffic. I don't mean park & ride lots and kiosks either, but a concerted collaborative effort by the city, suburban towns and county transportation agencies to promote public transportaton. Have you thought of trains (the Champlain Flyer)?

No to the Southern Connector!!!

Thank you.


2 Poems for the Octave of Christmas

The Diocese of Washington's blog, daily episcopalian is offering several poems this week, in celebration of the Octave of Christmas - the feast is not over at the evening of December 25, but is celebrated for a whole week.

One poem is by my most favourite poet, Denise Levertov. I was introduced to Levertov by my English teacher at The Mountain School, Roberta Worrick - an author in her own right, writing about Africa as Maria Thomas; she died in a tragic airplane accident in Ethiopia in 1989 with Congressman Mickey Leland, who represented my Houston district. I still have my senior high school English project paper on Levertov!

An announcement -- Announcement is a very different word than annunciation. The connotations of the first are workaday, bureaucratic, while the connotations of the second are grand, even--in the poem excerpted below--sacred. Yet Denise Levertov wants us to undersand that the distinction obscures rather than illuminates. God is forever annunciating His presence, offering to be born in each of our lives. We may not get the angel, but we get the invitation.

from Annunciation
by Densire Levertov

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

The full poem can be read here.

Another poem is by Howard Thurman, whom I've never read until today. But I want to read more of him!

The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurman

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart."
— The Mood of Christmas, 23

An Excerpt from Howard Thurman: Essential Writings

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Man on the Table Was 97, but He Devised the Surgery

Several readers and friends of this blog know that I lived for over 20 years in Houston and worked at St Luke's Episcopal Hospital/Texas Heart Institute where Denton Cooley is chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at St. Luke's.

Michael DeBakey worked next door at The Methodist Hospital.

So, I was astounded and amazed - he was ancient when I lived in Houston (actually I thought he had long since died) - to read in today's New York Times: Over the past 60 years, Dr. DeBakey has changed the way heart surgery is performed. He was one of the first to perform coronary bypass operations. He trained generations of surgeons at the Baylor College of Medicine; operated on more than 60,000 patients; and in 1996 was summoned to Moscow by Boris Yeltsin, then the president of Russia, to aid in his quintuple heart bypass operation.

Now Dr. DeBakey is making history in a different way — as a patient. He was released from Methodist Hospital in Houston in September and is back at work. At 98, he is the oldest survivor of his own operation, proving that a healthy man of his age could endure it.

Sugar and Spice!

"If you don't allow a man to have an education, don't lock him up in jail for being dumb."
-- James Brown, July 2, 2006, UK Independent

Legendary Singer James Brown Dies at 73 - James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's "Fame," Prince's "Kiss," George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style.

If Brown's claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.

"James presented obviously the best grooves," rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close."

His hit singles include such classics as "Out of Sight," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Say It Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud," a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

I couldn't believe when i woke up this morning turned on the radio to hear the Godfather Of Soul had died. I'm geniunely saddened by his death. Yeah, I'm gay, so what? I ain't no poofster tryin' to polish my halo, either. I loved James Brown. I've busted moves to his choons countless times and worshipped his music!

That man was still working as hard as the day he came into the music business. Never thought he'd be going so soon.

Sad day in music. For me, it's sadder than Elvis dying. Music ain't gonna be the same without him. But he was 73 years old, I mean c'mon, he was born in 1933 and was still performing up until recently!?! Amazin'.

If there was no James Brown there'd be no likes of Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, even Beyoncé or anyone you can think of who has dance routines. R.I.P.

A Vermont Christmas

Harvesting a Christmas Tree in Vermont: National Public Radio (US) has this good story on how one Vermonter cut down his family's Christmas tree this year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Stupid Laws and Harsh Sentences

The Peking Duck shows how others see us: Another shining moment for the US justice system - Stupid laws and sentences have been hot topics here lately, and the latest example of a 17-year-old parolee sentenced to life imprisonment for testing positive for marijuana use is even more appalling - and terrifying - than our earlier discussion of another 17-year-old given a 10-year sentence for receiving a consensual blowjob.

But I have no illusions: For every horror story like this that the media expose, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of similar stories that don't get told, and where the victim is not so lucky. The wheels of the US justice system grind on, protecting us and punishing wrongdoers and making sure rule of law in America works as best it can. But God have mercy on the souls of the little people who get caught up in its cold, heartless machinery. Tragically but not at all surprisingly, the poorer they are, the more likely they are to get sucked into these legal black holes.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Values

Left I on the News/The Great Society (scroll down to Thursday, December 21, 2006 for the story) --

What a great country the United States is! Why, the Congress has just passed a bill allowing teachers and other education workers to deduct up to a whopping $250 in out-of-pocket classroom expenses from their taxes. And this generous "benefit" extends all the way to...2007.

New values, anyone? Like a country where the government actually pays for things needed in the classroom, rather than forcing (for all intents and purposes) conscientious teachers to pay for them in the first place?

USA Today says that 3 million taxpayers took this deduction in 2005. If all of them spent $250 (many no doubt spent more), that would be $750 million in educational expenses coming out of the pockets of poorly-paid teachers rather than from the government. That's two-and-a-half whole days of spending on the war against Iraq and Afghanistan (not including decades of future payments for medical expenses, by the way).

God bless 'em, I've seen how teachers struggle to support their own families and also devote their energy and off-the-clock-hours to make their classes interesting and provocative. And I'm sure they spend more than $250 out of pocket! But we live in an age of war-mongering, pork-funding, corporation-influenced Republican and Democrtic parties who don't care.

This holiday season, several of our esteemed reps in Washington have come home, no doubt to celebrate and drink mulled wine with Wall Street investment managers - who just "earned" obscene year-end bonuses --
Many of those bonuses will be performance-based, so some of the company's bigwigs are likely to get as much as $100 million.

What someone might buy with a $100 million holiday bonus:

  • You could provide immunizations for more than 40,000 impoverished children for a year ($37.5 million), then throw a birthday party for your daughter and one million of her closest friends ($60 million). You'd still have enough to buy a different color Rolls Royce for each day of the week ($2.5 million).

  • You could feed about 800,000 children for a year ($60 million), recreate the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes and Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston weddings four times over ($16 million), buy one of Mel Gibson's private islands ($15 million), and still remain a millionaire nine times over.

  • You could pay Harvard tuition for more than 1,500 students who couldn't afford it ($70.5 million), provide health care to over 1,000 Americans for a year ($7 million), and still have enough to buy a different Brioni designer suit for every single day of the year ($6,000 suits for all 365 days would cost $22 million).

Or they could give a small portion of that bonus to their local schools to fund teachers' extra-curricular expenses. Now that would be an example of Holiday values!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When Charity Shouldn’t Begin at Home

The article below by Robert Reich recalls 'Cadillac liberal' Leonard Bernstein's hors d'oeuvres party back in the 1970's for Manhattan socialites in his UWS swankienda to "benefit" the Black Panthers.

Even now, in 2006, Democratic and Progressive party members in our town *cough* think left, but *cough* *cough* live right. (Check out the contributor/guest list at the next Flynn Center benefit.)

Reich gives some advice to the Canapé Consumerist Culture in our midst.

Robert B. Reich/Common Dreams - 12/20/06 - Not long ago, New York City’s Lincoln Center had a gala dinner supported by the charitable contributions of the leaders of the hedge fund industry, some of whom will be receiving billion-dollar bonuses in the next few weeks. I may be missing something here, but this doesn’t strike me as charity. I mean, poor New Yorkers don’t often attend concerts at the Lincoln Center.

It turns out, in fact, that only an estimated 10 percent of all charitable deductions this year will be directed at the poor.

So here’s a modest holiday proposal: At a time in our nation’s history when the number of needy continue to rise, when government doesn’t have the money to do what’s necessary, and when America’s very rich are richer than ever, we should revise the tax code and limit the charitable deduction to real charities.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Can Burlington be an ecological, holistic city, too?

Isabelle de Pommereau/Christian Science Monitor-12/20/06 --

It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the kids. Instead, a convoy of helmet-donning moms - bicycle trailers in tow - pedal up to the entrance.

Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.

With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent. Just this week, Paris unveiled a new electric tram in a bid to reduce urban pollution and traffic congestion.

"Vauban is clearly an offer for families with kids to live without cars," says Jan Scheurer, an Australian researcher who has studied the Vauban model extensively. "It was meant to counter urban sprawl - an offer for families not to move out to the suburbs and give them the same, if better quality of life. And it is very successful."

There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests.


In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model.

Vauban, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, owes its existence, at least in part, to Freiburg - a university town, like Davis - that has a reputation as Germany's ecological capital.


Environmental research also became a backbone of the region's economy, which boasts Germany's largest solar-research center and an international center for renewable energy. Services such as installing solar panels and purifying wastewater account for 3 percent of jobs in the region, according to city figures.

Burlington: Vermont's 'ecological capital'? After all, we've got UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources right in our own back yard - offering a curriculum emphasizing the natural and social sciences as they apply to environmental problem-solving.

Continuing the CSM article -

"It would have been much simpler to give a big developer a piece of land and say, 'Come back five years later with a plan,' " says Roland Veith, the Freiburg city official in charge of Vauban.

But the result is a "master plan of an ecological city ... unique in its holistic approach," says Peter Heck, a professor of material-flow management at Germany's University of Trier, pointing out that this was a community-wide effort involving engineers, politicians, city planners, and residents - not just an environmental group's pilot program.


But what makes Vauban unique, say experts, is that "it's as much a grass-roots initiative as it is pursued by the city council," says Mr. Scheurer. "It brings together the community, the government, and the private sector at every state of the game."

As more cities follow Vauban's example, some see its approach taking off. "Before you had pilot projects. Now it's like a movement," says Mr. Heck. "The idea of saving energy for our landscape is getting into the basic planning procedure of German cities."

"Pursued by the city council...", the article says. Do our illustrious Burlington City Councilmembers have the balls? (Just take a look at their vote supporting the wrong-headed, revamped Southern Connector project.)

The Vauban Model

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jose Padilla's incompetency

AP story - Florida District Court Judge Marcia Cooke will hold a status conference Monday on the issue of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla's competency. -

In their mental assessments, Hegarty or psychologist Patricia Zapf noted that Padilla:

``Reports being suspicious of everyone, including his attorneys, and stated that he does not know who he can and cannot trust. He indicated he was unsure of whether his attorneys might really be federal agents posing as his attorneys.''

``Appeared to become visibly distressed whenever asked about sensitive topics (his palms appeared to become sweaty ... his body would tense up, and he would rock back and forth).''

``Is unable to watch video recordings of his interrogation ... ``

``Appears convinced at times that no matter what happens he will be returned to the brig, even if he prevails in the current case.''

``Was certain that nobody could help him, that he could not be rescued from his current situation.''

Both experts concluded that Padilla was not faking mental problems and, in Hegarty's words, ``is terrified that anyone will consider him mentally ill or crazy.''

Well, it's obv to me that breaking him and others down until they are permanently damaged, was/is part of the US govt. plan. Very nasty way of escaping culpability.

And it's not just Padilla. The bastards are doing it to US veterans -

Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon's detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

American guards arrived at the man's cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

Sensory and sleep deprivation are forms of torture.

So, the US Govt is torturing veterans and they can't see a lawyer -

Nathan Ertel, the American held with Mr. Vance, brought away military records that shed further light on the detention camp and its secretive tribunals. Those records include a legal memorandum explicitly denying detainees the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether they should be released or held indefinitely, perhaps for prosecution.

Are you an Eeyore or a Tigger?

Yesterday, BBC Radio 4's Off the Page discussed The Power of Positive Thinking - Does looking on the bright side bring you good luck? Is 'Seize the Day' the proper motto for a satisfying life? Or should we accept our limitations and embrace negativity?

Psychologist Richard Wiseman, philosopher Julian Baggini and journalist Lucy Cavendish explore whether the glass is half full or half empty. Dominic Arkwright chairs the discussion.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Handful of Dust

If you liked Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, you'll love A Handful of Dust. Waugh's delicious classic portrait of a society marriage brought low by a tawdry affair is on BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime this week. The readings started last Monday (12/13), so click that day TODAY to listen. (It's on for seven days after broadcast.) Quick, click, like a bunny! :-P

Link: Time's review: Melofarce. In 1934, the harcover sold for $2.50! - A Handful of Dust is a cunningly contrived cinema of cold wit, tender humor, impersonal satire, shameless, but effective hokum. Only a rare reader will be able to sit it through unmoved either to a smile or a sigh. The total effect is sinister. Author Waugh must be credited with having written a novel truly representative of an age which is partly melodrama, partly farce.

Trials of a Grandma

The sixty-nine year old grandmother, Rosemarie Jackowski, is in the news again.

Two local papers carry the same story on different days and with two different headlines.

Bennington Banner on 12/04/06: War protestor will be retried

Just over the state line, in the North Adams Transcript on 12/05/06: Prosecutor to retry war-protesting Vt. grandmother

I find it very interesting that in Vermont she's a war protester and in Massachusetts she's a grandmother war protester.

A grandmother whose conviction for disorderly conduct was overturned by the Vermont Supreme Court will be retried, according to the county prosecutor. Rosemarie Jackowski, 69, appealed her conviction for disorderly conduct at an anti-war protest at the Four Corners to the Supreme Court in September 2005. She was convicted by a Bennington District Court jury of intending to block traffic and annoy drivers while she stood in the middle of Bennington's busiest intersection. The one-day criminal trial was prosecuted by Bennington County State's Attorney William D. Wright and former Deputy State's Attorney Daniel McManus. District Court Judge David Suntag presided over the trial.

According to Wright, Jackowski will face another trial. . . Wright will be leaving the office in January after 20 years when his former deputy, Erica Albin Marthage, of Manchester, takes over as the state's attorney Advertisement following her election win last month. Jackowski said she was surprised that the state would spend taxpayer money to retry her.

"That's fascinating. I had not heard that. I am kind of shocked and blown away by that. . . Jackowski said she does not fear another trial, and said she will be more prepared the second time around. . .

The state Supreme Court overturned the trial jury's verdict, ruling three to two in favor of Jackowski after the court found that Suntag had made mistakes during the trial, including taking away the jury's responsibility to decide Jackowski's true intent. . .

Finding a new lawyer might be difficult, said Jackowski. Her former attorney, Stephen Saltonstall, who argued her case in trial and before the Supreme Court, said he can no longer represent her because former prosecutor Daniel McManus has joined his law firm as a defense attorney. She said she would consider representing herself.

"I hope that someone will come forward to represent me. ... It's not a big concern or worry. I think the facts are so simple and straightforward that I would like to tell a jury about that day and what I did," she said.

Rosemarie Jackowski was the Liberty Union Party candidate for Vermont Attorney General in the November election. God help her now that William Sorrell has been re-elected.

I found about her retrial from a post on Undernews (Thanks!)

Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 1791, the U.S. adopted the Bill of Rights. Phone, write, e-mail -remind your elected officials not to erode them anymore than they have already!

From Britannica Blog - Eternal Merry-Go-Round?

And from Balkinization - Who's Next? -
[This essay, on the beginnings of the Jose Padilla case, originally appeared in the Hartford Courant on June 20, 2002. Over the next several days I will be republishing some op-eds and pieces I wrote in the first year after 9/11 on civil liberties issues.

It is worth remembering the extreme claims of power that led to Padilla's original imprisonment. Before the Hamdi decision, the Bush Administration took the view that it could seize anyone, anywhere-- including U.S. citizens-- that it claimed was associated with terrorism and hold that person indefinitely without any rights. Furthermore, it claimed that the President's designation that a person was an enemy of the state was unreviewable by the courts, or at the very least should be upheld if there was *any* evidence supporting it, including, for example, a self-serving affidavit from an executive branch official.

Five years later, Padilla is still in prison without ever having been convicted of any crime, and, if reports are to believed, has become unhinged from the treatment he received at the hands of his own government.

It has often been said that it can't happen here. But it already has happened. And it is still happening.

Five years after 9/11, we should remember the road we have traveled.]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Texas is a whole other country

AP wire story/Texas child suspended after hugging aide - WACO, Texas - School administrators gave a 4-year-old student an in-school suspension for inappropriately touching a teacher's aide after the pre-kindergartner hugged the woman.

A letter from La Vega school district administrators to the student's parents said that the boy was involved in "inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment" after he hugged the woman and he "rubbed his face in the chest of (the) female employee" on Nov. 10.

Read about this story today on TalkLeft.

La Vega ISD is located near Waco.

Well, the boy's father has filed a complaint. - DaMarcus Blackwell, the father of the boy who attends La Vega Primary School, said he filed a complaint with the district. He said that his son doesn't understand why he was punished.

Updated story from the WacoTrib: Media frenzy doesn't daunt accused child's parents - Officials first called the incident, “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment,” later changing the offense to “inappropriate physical contact” after DeMarcus Blackwell filed a complaint, according to a subsequent letter from the district. A request for an apology also was denied, the letter stated.

Blackwell said changing the name of the offense isn’t enough. On Monday, he filed a level-two complaint with the district, which eventually could put them in front of the district school board.

“This has to do with justice,” Blackwell said. “This is about justice for my 4-year-old child.”

Last summer, you all might recall an art teacher's suspension because 5th graders saw nude sculptures on a field trip to a Dallas museum.

Only in Texas (that's why I left the state six years ago) - crazy!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Liberal Consensus Hardens for More Troops to Iraq

Alexander Cockburn/CounterPunch - You want more evidence of Democratic spinelessness? How about the confirmation of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense by the U.S. Senate, 95 to 2. Not a single Democrat voted against this slippery survivor of the Iran-contra scandal, who spent the early part of his intelligence career at the CIA and NSC, inflating the Soviet threat and leaking fictions about the KGB plot to kill the pope to neocon fantasists like Clare Sterling. The two No votes came from Santorum of Pennsylvania and Bunning of Kentucky. Some of the Democrats voting Aye this time voted No on Gates when he was up for confirmation as Bush Sr's CIA chief back in 1991.

Monday, December 11, 2006

URGENT WARNING: The Advent Virus

Be on the alert for symptoms of inner hope, peace, joy and love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world. Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
    A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.

Thanks to SJP, London.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est

From A Blog of Mystical Searches -

One of my favorite chants that is sung at the Taize services I regularly attend is the following: Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est (where love and charity are, God is there.) God is found wherever there is inclusive love. Exclusionary, tribalistic religious impulses are not, in my view, loving. Alan Jones says the following in his book Reimagining Christianity:

The deeper we go in any particular religion, the more likely we are to bump into practices of prayer and compassion and come out into a shared place of respect. Father Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a Benedictine monk deeply influenced by Hinduism, often used the image of the human hand to illustrate what the great religious traditions had in common. The tips of the fingers represented the religions of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. As you do deeper (by moving down from the tips of the fingers to the palm), you move closer together and enjoy an underlying unity of love and compassion. (p. 126)


Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Treat all creatures with respect

Andrew Linzey has written for The Times about why Animals must not be scapegoats.

The Anglican divine Humphry Primatt famously described cruelty as “atheism” in his landmark book The Duty of Mercy in 1776, and subsequent luminaries, such as William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury, maintained that cruelty was incompatible with Christian discipleship. The Anglican priest Arthur Broom founded the SPCA (as it then was) as a Christian society in 1824. The contemporary animal rights movement would have been inconceivable without these Christian pioneers.

In fact the “Christian” view of animals is altogether more ambiguous than many suppose. Despite the almost universal view that Christianity teaches that animals are here for our use, the Bible never explicitly endorses that idea — its originator was (most probably) Aristotle.

Many think that the “dominion” over animals granted in Genesis i, 26 means despotism, but since human beings are subsequently prescribed a vegetarian diet (v29-30), it is difficult to see how herb-eating dominion can be a licence for tyranny.

Although most think that human salvation alone is Christian doctrine, many Bible verses make clear that the scope of salvation is cosmic. Untrammelled human supremacy, it is supposed, is part of the core message, whereas the Bible indicates how humans are uniquely wicked, capable of making themselves lower than the beasts — the Book of Job compares us unfavourably with the Leviathan and Behemoth (chaps 40-41).

Last month more than 100 academics (including 40 theologians) helped to launch the new Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, an international academy dedicated to rethinking the ethics of our treatment of animals. Christianity — once judged to be the cornerstone of “speciesist” and “supremacist” attitudes — in fact comprises resources to help us discover more convivial and respectful relations with animals.

Next time we peer into a Christmas crib, with Jesus surrounded by the adoring animals, we should remind ourselves of the survival of an alternative, animal-inclusive tradition at the heart of Christianity.

I have a related post here.

Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

Monday, December 4, 2006

Out of a Kafka novel

... American justice, I mean.

Headline in today's New York Times just above the fold in the print edition reads - Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect's Isolation

To me that's a pretty lame headline and really should read "Video Shows Terror Subject's Cowardly Torture." The Times is downplaying the torture, but you can just read the story and cringe and be sickened that this is happening, not in Gitmo, but in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C.

Jose Padilla gets taken to the dentist for a root canal. (I thought immediately of the film, Marathon Man, is a scary nightmare thriller, best known for the suspenseful pursuit scenes and a truly repellent scene of torture.)

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.

The point:

To Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, the pictures capture the dehumanization of their client during his military detention from mid-2002 until earlier this year, when the government changed his status from enemy combatant to criminal defendant and transferred him to the federal detention center in Miami. He now awaits trial scheduled for late January.

Together with other documents filed late Friday, the images represent the latest and most aggressive sally by defense lawyers who declared this fall that charges against Mr. Padilla should be dismissed for “outrageous government conduct,” saying that he was mistreated and tortured during his years as an enemy combatant.

His lawyers argue (and a psychiatrist agrees)...

...that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of “truth serums.”

...Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”

“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.

The conditions where Padilla is held:

In an affidavit filed Friday, [Lawyer Andrew Patel] alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”

The military lawyers concur:

Philip D. Cave, a former judge advocate general for the Navy and now a lawyer specializing in military law, said, “There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement.”

The Government is seeking to block Padilla's lawyers from telling the jury about the conditions of his confinement at his trial.

Federal prosecutors have asked the judge to forbid Mr. Padilla’s lawyers from mentioning the circumstances of his military detention during the trial, maintaining that their accusations could “distract and inflame the jury.”

But defense lawyers say it is unconscionable to ignore Mr. Padilla’s military detention because, among other reasons, it altered him in a way that will impinge on his trial.

...“During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body,” Mr. Patel said. “The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.”

What a fuckin' liberty!

The Axis of Hope is here to stay

Venezuela Viewpoint : Chavez wins!

Green Left Weekly - “The atmosphere in the early evening has been a big celebration already, with fireworks and loud music in the city streets, and a large crowd already gathering near Miraflores Palace”, according to Jim McIlroy and Coral Wynter, correspondents for Green Left Weekly’s Venezuela bureau who were in Caracas on the day of the December 3 presidential election.

The wealthy elite, which back the opposition and own the media, are terrified of the growing radicalisation of Venezuela’s working people. Chavez explicitly made the elections a referendum on his stated goal of constructing a “socialism of the 21st century”, and dramatically deepening the revolutionary transformation of the country. Yet again, the working people sent a powerful message: there should be no return to the past — the revolution must continue.

The elite are running out of options. However, funded and directed by the US government, they will continue to struggle to stop the process of change in order to defend their interests. During the election campaign, the opposition succeeded in remobilising their base in the middle class. Rosales’s final election rally, held on November 25, involved hundreds of thousands of people and was possibly the largest demonstration held yet by the opposition, easily the largest since their defeat in the 2004 recall referendum (an opposition initiative to prematurely end Chavez’s term).

From his victory speech - "Long live the socialist revolution! Destiny has been written ... We have shown that Venezuela is red! ... No one should fear socialism ... Socialism is human. Socialism is love ... Down with imperialism! We need a new world! It's another defeat for the devil, who tries to dominate the world ... Down with imperialism! We need a new world!"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Burlington: Take Notice!

Sam Howe Verhovek/LA Times - This big city would rather think small

For believers in a Lesser Seattle, it's been a fantastic month.

First, Seattle voters said a resounding "no" to spending public money on a new professional basketball arena, all but begging the NBA SuperSonics to leave town. Strong opposition has also emerged to the mayor's plans for a Big Dig-style tunnel project along the waterfront.

Wonderful, from the Lesser Seattle point of view. Let the word go out. Who'd ever want to live here?

"Lesser Seattle" was a term coined in the 1980s by late newspaper columnist Emmett Watson, as a puckish play on Greater Seattle Inc., the name of an early group of tourism and growth promoters. It never became a formal organization, but Lesser Seattle is nonetheless a powerful and enduring state of mind.

These Seattle residents pine for the good old days, when nobody thought of Seattle as a world-class city — and, not coincidentally, when an average worker could afford a house here. The city, in their view, had no business hosting the now-infamous World Trade Organization meeting here in 1999, but nonetheless did itself proud by turning the event into a huge anti-globalization protest.

And Seattle, they say, can take or leave the mantle of being an NBA city.

"Seattle doesn't need to have a pro basketball team in order to feel special," says Chris Van Dyk, a co-founder of Citizens for More Important Things, a nonprofit group that won the anti-subsidy vote Nov. 7. "Seattle is special regardless."

These Seattle residents pine for the good old days, when nobody thought of Seattle as a world-class city — and, not coincidentally, when an average worker could afford a house here. The city, in their view, had no business hosting the now-infamous World Trade Organization meeting here in 1999, but nonetheless did itself proud by turning the event into a huge anti-globalization protest.

Plenty of people welcome growth and development. But plenty say Seattle has given up too much of its blue-collar soul in the process.

"Part of our civic makeup is this idea that being too big for your britches is a bad thing," says Knute Berger, former editor of the Seattle Weekly newspaper. "In that sense, Lesser Seattle is due for a resurgence."

Al Runte, a former University of Washington history professor and former mayoral candidate, says he detects an "enough is enough" sentiment among voters in their passage, by nearly 75%, of the initiative barring public funds for a new basketball arena.

"A city of this quality does not need to give incentives to developers," he says. "They should be paying taxpayers for the privilege of being in this city."

Once, the Seattle area seemed quietly tucked away in a corner of the map; now, of course, it's the headquarters of Microsoft, Starbucks and, and it remains a magnet for global talent.

City Councilman Nick Licata, a leader of both the anti-subsidies and anti-tunnel forces, says Watson's spirit is alive and well, though Licata wouldn't quite adopt Lesser Seattle as his own slogan.

"I knew Emmett; I certainly understood his concept in a visceral way," says Licata. "It's dangerous for any public official to say you're in favor of Lesser Seattle. It sounds like you're a Luddite. But there's an element of Lesser Seattle that everyone identifies with. It's more neighborhood-oriented. Less glitz, more substance."

Seattle is hardly the only place where the visions of preservationists clash with those of growth promoters. Yet even as Seattle has become known around the world for exporting software, coffee and jet airplanes, the Lesser Seattle mentality remains an important civic force.

I spent a delightful week in Seattle a year ago. Indeed, it's a friendly place; the people are unpretentious and down-to-earth. Burllington could learn a thing or two from Seattle's experience. Although no where near the size of Seattle, Burlington is a small city that would rather think big. Too big for its britches for a city of just under 40,000 inhabitants. Just look at the CEDO manipulations surrounding the Moran Plant and the Waterfront; the lump sum mega-bribes to Waterfront Video and the Mesa stores to vacate their locations so the bankrupt Cornell family can develop that property; the high-class condo and hotel developments on Battery Street; the proposed commercial renewal plans for the Church Street Marketplace to keep the consumers and tourists happy. Can we expect yet another name change for the Southern Connector: Burton Expressway, anyone? Pine Street soon to be Chocolate Boulevard? You'd think we were fucking Houston or New York City. Property tax rises in Burlington have caused many residents to re-consider remaining in Vermont's premier city. Affordable housing is a sham here. With all the new development, it's becoming a city of the 'haves' and 'have-it-alls,' leaving those with unliveable wages to fend for themselves. (Idea for a bumpersticker: "Moonlighting in Burlington/You have to, in order to survive here.") Burlington is losing its soul. And I'm not suggesting, as they do in Boulder, to keep our town 'weird,' because it's not - Burlington's just become a harder, faster-paced city, less down-home Vermont. I'd go for a "Lesser Burlington" state of mind any day.

On a personal note, I knew Sam Howe Verhovek and his family when I lived in Houston. We were members of St Stephen's Episcopal Church, an activist inner-city parish in the Montrose. Sam was based in Houston, doing the Texas and Southwest beat for the New York Times. He moved to the Northwest to cover Seattle for the Times. Still in Seattle, he's now writing for the LA Times. Too bad we don't have as good a reporter on our local (and Gannett-owned) papers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New think tank for animal rights opens

The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics will act as an international think tank with its own online course, research initiatives and publications. It's focusing in particular on the relationship between animal abuse and human violence. But, with many conflicting views on such issues as experimentation and organic farming, how effective will the centre be?

Guardian story - The centre's director, the Rev Professor Andrew Linzey, an Anglican priest, writer and University of Oxford theologian, is well known for his opposition to animal testing.

The thinktank, which is to open its own centre in Oxford, opposes violence and illegal acts and distances itself from militant animal rights activists who advocate campaigns of violence and intimidation. One of the first issues of debate on its agenda is "the relationship between animal abuse and violence to human beings".

Prof Linzey said: "We must strive to ensure animal issues are highlighted and rationally discussed throughout society - we cannot change the world for animals without changing our ideas about them.

"The centre will promote ethical attitudes and contribute to informed public debate."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Howard Zinn on Democracy Now!

Howard Zinn - "The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism." - I was talking to my barber the other day, because we always discuss world politics. And he’s totally politically unpredictable, as most barbers are, you see. He said, “Howard,” he said, “you know, you and I disagree on many things, but on one thing we agree: war solves nothing.” And I thought, “Yeah.” It’s not hard for people to grasp that.

And there again, history is useful. We’ve had a history of war after war after war after war. What have they solved? What have they done? Even World War II, the “good war,” the war in which I volunteered, the war in which I dropped bombs, the war after which, you know, I received a letter from General Marshall, general of generals, a letter addressed personally to me, and to 16 million others, in which he said, “We’ve won the war. It will be a new world.” Well, of course, it wasn’t a new world. It hasn’t been a new world. War after war after war.

There are certain -- I came out of that war, the war in which I had volunteered, the war in which I was an enthusiastic bombardier, I came out of that war with certain ideas, which just developed gradually at the end of the war, ideas about war. One, that war corrupts everybody who engages in it. War poisons everybody who engages in it. You start off as the good guys, as we did in World War II. They’re the bad guys. They’re the fascists. What could be worse? So, they’re the bad guys, we’re the good guys. And as the war goes on, the good guys begin behaving like the bad guys. You can trace this back to the Peloponnesian War. You can trace it back to the good guy, the Athenians, and the bad guys, the Spartans. And after a while, the Athenians become ruthless and cruel, like the Spartans.


One of the things we can learn from history is that history is not only a history of things inflicted on us by the powers that be. History is also a history of resistance. It’s a history of people who endure tyranny for decades, but who ultimately rise up and overthrow the dictator. We’ve seen this in country after country, surprise after surprise. Rulers who seem to have total control, they suddenly wake up one day, and there are a million people in the streets, and they pack up and leave. This has happened in the Philippines, in Yemen, all over, in Nepal. Million people in the streets, and then the ruler has to get out of the way. So, this is what we’re aiming for in this country.

Everything we do is important. Every little thing we do, every picket line we walk on, every letter we write, every act of civil disobedience we engage in, any recruiter that we talk to, any parent that we talk to, any GI that we talk to, any young person that we talk to, anything we do in class, outside of class, everything we do in the direction of a different world is important, even though at the moment they seem futile, because that’s how change comes about. Change comes about when millions of people do little things, which at certain points in history come together, and then something good and something important happens.

Founder of animal rights philosophy supports primate research

Observer/Peter Singer backs primate research - Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, is renowned for insisting animals should have equal rights with humans but is quoted, on camera, backing research in which experiments on monkeys are carried out to develop surgery for Parkinson's and other patients.

The Oxford Center for Animal Ethics would not agree.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Green Party Takes Control of Richmond, CA

San Francisco Chronicle/Carl Hall writes - ...the election makes Richmond the biggest city in the country with a Green Party mayor -- and apparently the first with a predominately minority population.

About three-fourths of the city's 103,000 residents are African-American and other minorities. The Green Party's traditional base has been among mostly white, well-educated people concerned about environmental causes.

McLaughlin describes herself in her official City Council biography as a "lifelong social activist" for progressive causes. She is the product of a union family in Chicago, and holds an undergraduate degree in psychology.

R. I. P. Betty Comden

Patti LuPone and Howard McGillin sing Comden and Green.

From On the Town

Thomas Hampson sings Lucky to Be Me -

Thomas Hampson sings Lonely Town -

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nope. No hope.

Molly Ivins - While the Washington press corps worried its pretty little head to a frazzle over Nancy Pelosi’s Armani suits and terrible start as speaker of the House (except she hasn’t started as speaker), they forgot to fret over Trent Lott, who had previously been bounced unceremoniously from the Senate leadership team to which the Republicans just reelected him. They seem to have forgotten that he had expressed the wish that Strom Thurmond, the segregationist candidate for president, had won in 1948.

So many of our media mavens have been so wrong for so long that we may yet see a mere modicum of becoming self-doubt from our professional pontificators. And think how thankful we’d all be for that. Their sources, led by Karl Rove, have had them eating Pablum out of their hands for years now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A victory for the animals

Party for the Animals gains 2 parliamentary seats in the Netherlands

Amsterdam, 11/23/2006 – On Wednesday, November 22, the Dutch political Party of the Animals gained 2 seats in the 150-member legislature in The Netherlands. This makes the Netherlands the first country in the world in which a party for animal welfare is elected into a representative body of the people.

“We are thrilled with such a wonderful result of our campaign”, says party leader Marianne Thieme. “Finally we can start realizing our party’s highest priority, namely ending all animal suffering. We want a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing animals the right to freedom from pain, fear and stress caused by humans. Let’s begin with easing the suffering of the hundreds of millions of cows, pigs and chickens stuck in factory farming”, she said. Thieme feels success in the Netherlands could help the movement elsewhere. One of the party’s purposes is to be an inspiration for other countries and animal rights activists.

A growing number of Dutch people are wondering why it is necessary to have economic interests prevail over ethical considerations when it comes to animal welfare and the interests of nature and the environment. “The Party for the Animals expresses this concern that so many Dutch have”, says Esther Ouwehand, number two on the party list, explaining the party’s victory.

Happy Thanksgiving

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of allnothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-- e. e. cummings

Dutch elections

The Guardian - A government is unlikely to be formed for weeks after voters appeared to abandon the mainstream parties in favour of parties on the hard left and right. The former Communist Socialist party appeared to be the big winner. It was on course for an increase in its seats from nine to 25 amid signs that many Muslims voted for the party in protest at the stance on immigration adopted by the main parties.

(Thanks to Qlipoth for the photo.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The party of permanent war

Alexander Coburn - So the stakes are very high, and the party of permanent war -- represented at its purest distillation in the form of senators like Joe Biden and congressmen like Rahm Emanuel -- are regrouping for a counter-attack, their numbers refreshed by a phalanx of incoming blue dog Democrats. The Democratic foreign policy establishment cannot and will not tolerate the notion of Cut and Run in Iraq. Expect reassertions of the essential nobility of the attack that ousted Saddam Hussein, a deprecation of the destruction of Iraq as a society, a minimization of the outrages committed by U.S. forces. Expect a fierce campaign -- spearheaded by Democrats and the surviving neocons, to wage a "better" war. Expect a presidential campaign waged among warmongers, from Clinton through McCain by way of Giuliani. The voters spoke up, but that's the last chance they'll get, at least at the ballot box, for another two years.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hersh on Iran

THE NEXT ACT Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?

Regarding Iran, the problem is not the president (though he is a problem), the problem is a two party congress. The only way Cheney and Bush could go around Congress is if they let them. It is not enough to have an incompetent president to run amok, you need an incompetent and complacent congress, too.

Cheney would welcome an attack, but what's scary for me is that there are Democratic leaders who would jump at the chance, too.

The Bush Administration, if it does take military action against Iran, would have support from Democrats as well as Republicans. Senators Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Evan Bayh, of Indiana, who are potential Democratic Presidential candidates, have warned that Iran cannot be permitted to build a bomb and that—as Clinton said earlier this year—“we cannot take any option off the table.” Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has also endorsed this view.

"Working beyond the river"

To follow up on my previous post a few days ago, Groundwater as a public resource, some further questions and comments.

Will Vermont's drinking water be safe?
Will there be enough to support people and the environment?
Can an effective water policy be made?
What about climate change?

As the scope and complexity of Vermont's and America's water problems increase, the need emerges for a water resources strategy.

The State of Vermont has a Department of Environmental Conservation under which is a Water Quality Division. Vermont could follow the Dutch example by creating a stand-alone, separate Department of Water.

The Netherlands' Prince of Orange, an expert in water management, said in a speech on November 9th at the global launch of the UNDP Human Development Report 2006 ('The water crisis of the 21st century: how can we turn the tide?'):

Of course, no single sector and no single country can solve these complex problems alone. In the water sector, we have long understood that. Thinking on the matter has led to the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management. This implies that in everything you do, you take account of the many functions water fulfils in a given area and of the people who depend on it. That means working with other sectors, strong commitment from all stakeholders and implementation at the right – often local – level. That is what I like to call ‘working beyond the river’.
From Water in the Netherlands:
The water system approach was introduced in the Netherlands after the Dutch were faced with extreme water related problems: In 1993 and 1995, the Netherlands was startled by extremely high water levels in the rivers. Shortly thereafter, inhabitants and farmers of yet another region of the Netherlands were burdened with water related problems resulting from sustained rainfall. During the 1990s, the Netherlands also experienced several summers of dramatically low levels of precipitation.

Because of climate change and economic trends, the continued existence of the Netherlands requires everything to be done to prevent flooding and limit any damage. It is a good idea to do this now by using more resources, making better use of knowledge, defining responsibilities better and cooperating better. The entire safety chain is central to this, which means that a joint approach to preventing flooding will be examined, as well as limiting any damage, in cooperation with all parties in the Netherlands.

Democratic Party is just as complicit in crimes

And it’s not just the genocidal war against Iraq that the Democratic Party is equally complicit in. They still support the continuing occupation in Afghanistan, and almost unanimously sanctioned Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. They approved and let pass the Patriot Act and the recent Military Commissions Act, which, among other outrages, gives the presidency the power to imprison and torture citizens and non-citizens without charges.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The bad times are over? The evil ones have been vanquished?

There is one primary difference between the Democrats and Republicans: They tell different lies to get elected.

It works like this; if you can't pay the 'dues' you get 'processed'.

"LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16 -- In an unprecedented crackdown on a practice experts say is shamefully common around the country, a major hospital chain was accused by prosecutors Thursday of ridding itself of a homeless patient by dumping her on crime-plagued Skid Row."

R.I.P. Ruth Brown

“Whatever I have to say, I get it said.”

Ruth Brown, the wonderful R&B singer, died on Friday in Las Vegas. She was 78. I loved her old Atlantic recordings, but I also remember her playing Motormouth Maybelle in John Water's Hairspray.

“She was one of the original divas,” said the singer Bonnie Raitt, who worked with Ms. Brown and Mr. Begle to improve royalties for rhythm and blues performers. “I can’t really say that I’ve heard anyone that sounds like Ruth, before or after. She was a combination of sass and innocence, and she was extremely funky. She could really put it right on the beat, and the tone of her voice was just mighty. And she had a great heart.”

“What I loved about her,” Ms. Raitt added, “was her combination of vulnerability and resilience and fighting spirit. It was not arrogance, but she was just really not going to lay down and roll over for anyone.”

On MSM Narratives and Criticisms

It's what these pundits and journalists do. They have pre-conceived, vapid notions about everything and everyone -- all driven by deep self-love for their own superior wisdom -- and they distort reality and crowd out sober analysis of everything that matters. Nancy Pelosi, and really everyone, would be well-advised not to listen to them and, above all, never adopt as a goal trying to please or satisfy them. They are frivolous and out of touch with everything that matters and should be treated as such.

That about sums it up for me regarding the MSM pundits. If you click the above and read all if it, it's clear the Washington media establishment hates and fears Pelosi. (I knew she was in trouble when I read a piece about her in the Style (Style section?) of the WaPo on the Friday, November 10th, just 3 days after election day.)

They all love a down and dirty fight, but it's all a diversion for them, because they don't really do their job. So much for the "Fourth Estate."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Funny

In honor of Trent Lott's return to power, coffee shops are bringing back the popular "Trent Latte."

It's separate but equal parts of milk and coffee.

Groundwater as a public trust resourse

Groundwater is under threats of contamination and depletion. Clean, healthy water is essential for human health and for ecological health as well. Water should be considered a part of the commons, accessible to all for the common good, rather than a product sold for profit. Diversion of groundwater for profit is already occurring in Vermont, depleting the water resource for others whose wells and springs are going dry, and degrading a trout stream nearby. Lack of knowledge of groundwater availability can lead to its depletion when too many people draw upon the same aquifer or source of groundwater.

Groundwater appears vulnerable is the headline in today's Burlington Free Press.

The Rev. Sister Laurian Seeber, a nun and a priest in the Episcopal Church, sat before a panel of legislators and government officials Thursday and made the case for mapping and protecting Vermont's underground water -- soon.

"I suspect some of you believe that concern about groundwater supply is alarmist," Seeber said, acknowledging the abundant rainfall that Vermont has experienced in recent weeks. She argued that many parts of the country and the world are thirsty and looking for places to extract water.

"The Vermont name is a symbol for exactly what people want in water," Seeber said. "It's no accident that the water extracted from Randolph is called Vermont Pure. We are a logical target."

Seeber addressed a committee charged with deciding whether Vermont's underground water should be declared a public trust resource and its extraction regulated. The committee, set up this year by the Legislature, is at the beginning of a two-year study of this question.

About 70 percent of Vermonters rely on groundwater for drinking, several witnesses told the panel. Many have private wells, while others are served by public water systems supplied by wells.

Ray Counter, water superintendent for the Brandon Fire District, said 4,000 residents there rely on the water from three wells. It's top quality water, he said. "We don't disinfect, and the town citizens have been very adamant they would like to keep it that way."

In Williston, some residents in a rural section of town have been unable to obtain sufficient water from their wells, Nellis said. A neighborhood group has called for extension of town water service to the area -- an expensive proposition for individual homeowners and the town.

Act 144 (H. 294 passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2006) establishes an interim groundwater withdrawal permit program to regulate commercial and industrial groundwater withdrawals over 50,000 gallons a day, creates a task force charged with making recommendations on whether groundwater should be declared a public trust resource, and urges the State to obtain funding for groundwater mapping from the US Geological Survey and EPA. Both House representatives from Randolph were among the majority supporting this legislation.

The committee must file an interim report to the Legislature in January. Jon Groveman of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, appointed as a statewide environmental representative on the committee, said the panel should take a stand on mapping in the report.

"What I hear is a fair amount of consensus that we should do it," Groveman said. "It is an information tool that other states have, but it requires money, and that has always been the rub."

The committee didn't vote on including a recommendation on mapping, but Co-Chairwoman Diane Snelling, a state senator from Chittenden County, said, "We have heard enough information to say we think it is essential."

Sen Snelling's email:

Vermonters for a Clean Environment

We must hold our legislature accountable to the concept of groundwater as a public trust resource.

Dutch sexual mores

A recent internet survey carried out the Netherlands shows that

more Dutch adults have a steady relationship, but they're having less sex than 15 years ago. More people are masturbating, and young people are having more oral and anal sex.

NRC writes that "50 percent of Dutch men and a slightly smaller number of women feel they aren't getting enough sex." According to the researchers, people's attitudes are also becoming more liberal, particularly those of women. 15 years ago, 53 percent of women thought it was OK to go to bed with someone without being in a steady relationship. Today the figure is 92 percent.


Muslim student tasered 5 times by UCLA cops

C&L has the video. It's over five minutes long and gruesome; I had to stop and breathe deep.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers.

"It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

Bruins Nation UCLA weblog story

LA Times story

It's clear from the video that the officers were provoking the crowd. For that reason alone, they fucked up. Added to the racial implications and the era of YouTube, this incident, which should have ended quietly, will end up costing these officers their jobs. And it should, because they almost started a riot. But ya know what? The other students didn't riot. More or less 200 of them and just a few opposing torture RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM ? WTF! If this had happened when I was at university, an all-out riot would have taken place. Riots should have erupted on the first taser shot. That's the Bu.h generation of students for ya. What a fucking bunch of cowards. After asking the officers for their IDs, the cops threatened to taser those students, too.

Tasers are dangerous and can be deadly. To use them on a HANDCUFFED individual of ANY race, gender, creed, ability, age or other qualifier is excessive force. You cannot deny that.

Recently, a student from Saginaw Valley State University (Michigan) was tasered at a Saginaw (MI) City Council meeting for not removing his baseball cap.

And here's a 2005 story from Palm Beach, Florida: A pregnant woman was tasered.

Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers.

Welcome to the police state, folks.

Last summer, Burlington Police obtained tasers to use on citizens here. Seven Days newspaper reported an incident last June where a taser gun was used on a dog. No protests were made by the Humane Society, of course.

A Burlington Police Department spokesman confirmed last week that officers recently used a Taser to subdue a vicious dog that was attacking another dog on Church Street. According to BPD Public Information Officer Mike Schirling, the incident occurred on June 18 at about 6:30 p.m. outside Leunig's on Church Street. Reportedly, a 70-pound husky broke loose from its owner and began attacking another dog. Schirling said that officers subdued the animal with a recently deployed Taser, an electronic stun gun that is considered a "less than lethal" weapon. Burlington police have been carrying Tasers for about six weeks and have only used them three or four times, Schirling added.

The dog's owner, Rita Chambers, was issued citations for public intoxication and for having an unlicensed, unvaccinated dog. The pooch was impounded but reportedly wasn't injured.

Tasers are an increasingly popular "simunition" weapon among police departments across the country. The gun-like device fires two metal prongs attached to wires that deliver a brief, 50,000-volt pulse of electricity. The shock temporarily overrides the central nervous system and causes the subject to instantly collapse. Taser International, which manufactures the stun gun, claims that the weapon is effective on animals and humans, according to Schirling.

The manufacturer's website tells a slightly different story. "The ADVANCED TASER is not specifically recommended for use against animals as its main function," the site reads. "The main reason is that the ADVANCED TASER was created for 'human nervous systems,' not animals."

That said, the site also notes, "We have received several reports of police officers using the ADVANCED TASER on pit bulls during warrant entries and also where pit bulls have attacked other dogs . . . We, in fact, now recommend that officers 'try' the ADVANCED TASER against the dogs and let us know of their success. It is still an unknown area for us, as we don't teach animal control tactics."

Schirling said it was unfortunate that the dog had to be Tasered, but that it prevented injury to the other dog and was a quicker, safer and more effective method of subduing the animal than pepper spray, which can burn a subject for hours and cause respiratory problems for officers and innocent bystanders.

In the heightened fear enviroment provoked by the recent murder of the University of Vermont student, can the UVM, Champlain College and St Mike's police be far behind in using these weapons?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dutch-American Heritage Day

"In love of liberty and in the defense of it, Holland has been our example."
-- Benjamin Franklin

The Irish, African, English, French, Polish, German, Italian, Chinese and Spanish (phew!) influences on American cultural life and history are well known. But do citizens of the USA ever think of the Dutch contributions to their country? November 16th is Dutch-American Heritage Day. I'm not necessarily of a nationalistic temperment, but I'm damn proud of my roots, so today I'll be hanging out the Stars and Stripes and the "Nederlandse Driekleur" (Dutch tri-colour) from my porch.

Coincidentally, Queen Beatrix is celebrating 'Statia Day' on the island of St Eustatius, where that first salute took place. Today the Queen ends her 16-day visit to Aruba and the Netherland Antilles.

On November 16th, Dutch-American Heritage Day, 8 million Americans of Dutch descent celebrate their heritage and the contributions they and their ancestors have made to the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the United States.

The Dutch began their relations with America in 1609, when Captain Henry Hudson of the Dutch East India Company sailed up the present-day Hudson River looking for a shorter route to Asia. Although Hudson did not find his route, Dutch traders began to exploit the riches of this wild country and in 1614 established Fort Nassau (near Albany), the second European settlement in America. A few years later, the Dutch Governor Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for 60 guilders, the famous $24 bargain.

A large portion of the eastern U.S., stretching from New Jersey and Delaware through New York and from Connecticut and Long Island to central eastern Pennsylvania, was settled by the Dutch in the early-1600s. The area was once known as New Netherland, and many places--Schuylkill, Catskill, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Harlem, Wall Street, Coney Island, to name but a few---trace their names from this Dutch period. Over the next two centuries, several waves of Dutch emigrants settled in the United States and, today, most Dutch-Americans are concentrated in ten states: New York, Michigan, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Washington, Texas, Ohio and Illinois.

Linked by traditions of intellectual and democratic freedom, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to recognize formal diplomatic relations with the United States in 1782. These relations have never been interrupted, and thus the Netherlands can boast the world's longest record of continuous friendly relations with the U.S. Benjamin Franklin once wrote: "In love of liberty and in the defense of it, Holland has been our example."

Many prominent Americans have been of Dutch origin including three presidents: Martin van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In November 1991 the U.S. Congress and President Bush proclaimed November 16 as Dutch-American Heritage Day (hereafter DAHD). November 16th was selected because on that day in 1776 Dutch forces on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius returned the salute of the American brig-of-war "Andrew Doria," thereby making the Netherlands the first country to officially salute the flag of the newly-independent United States.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tire Fire Snuffed Out

In today's BFP: IP abandons tire-burn plan.

Jessica Edgerly, a community organizer with the Montpelier-based Toxics Action Center, an organization that had campaigned against the burn, called Tuesday "a great day for both public health and the environment."

She termed the outcome "a testament to the hard work of so many Vermonters, proving that health triumphs over profit."

Uh-huh, nice spin Ms Edgerly. As much as I'm pleased with the halt, the Freeps article quotes the IP shill:

"Throughout this process, our goal has been to balance the economic benefits of the project with our commitment to manage our environmental footprint in a responsible manner," said Donna Wadsworth, the mill's communications and environmental manager, in announcing the end of the trial. "This trial has allowed us to assess the economics without compromising our pledge to operate in compliance."

Ms Wadsworth uses the acceptable enviro-speak, but you can bet the decision was profit-motivated. Environmental footprint, indeed, as Flyfisher has written here.

Performance as employers: 1992 - In sworn testimony before a Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Stephen Perry, representing the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the United Paperworkers International Union, said, "At Ticonderoga, New York, chlorine and chlorine dioxide spills were so commonplace that even the complaint officer was gassed during the inspection." ("Senate Subcommittee on Labor Hearing on: OSHA Reform: Fulfilling the Promise of a Safe and Healthy Workplace," Federal News Service, 17 March 1992)

Screw the employees, right? Who cares what toxic shit their exposed to. They'll get over it, expendable peons that they are.

Performance as environmental stewards: 1991 - International Paper Co. pleads guilty to five felony counts and pays $2.2 million in federal fines for illegally storing and treating hazardous waste and making false statements to regulators. The infractions occurred at the company's Androscoggin mill in Jay, Maine. According to a release by the U.S. Department of Justice, IP pleaded guilty to three violations of hazardous waste laws under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) involving the generating, storing, and treating of hazardous waste without a federal or state permit.

Well there you have it, what can I say. Their fucking white-collar criminals.

Not a very admirable record, when clearly the scientific evidence was against it and the environmental impact for Vermonters was reprehensible.

Speeder and Earl's partner with polluter, too.

Speeder and Earl's, a coffee and tea provider based in Burlington, along with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, consorts with a polluter. Next time you're in for a take-away cup of coffee, check under the paper cup for "IPFOODSERVICE.COM" and see for yourself. I guess I'll not be stopping by on Pine Street for my mid-morning drug.

Woman kicked off plane for breast-feeding baby

November 14, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. --A New Mexico woman has complained that she was kicked off an airplane about to leave Burlington International Airport because she was breast-feeding her baby.

A complaint against two airlines was filed with the Vermont Human Rights, although Executive Director Robert Appel said he was barred by state law from confirming the complaint. He did say state law allows a mother to breast-feed in public.

Elizabeth Boepple, a lawyer hired by 27-year-old mother Emily Gillette, confirmed that Gillette filed the complaint late last week against Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines. Freedom was operating the Delta commuter flight between Burlington and New York City.

A Freedom spokesman said Gillette was asked to leave the flight after she declined a flight attendant's offer of a blanket.

"A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way," that doesn't bother others, said Paul Skellon, spokesman for Phoenix-based Freedom. "She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that's all I know."

Here's the full AP story from the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Do the Right Thing

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) has a close relationship with International Paper (IP) as a partner corporation, but has declined to put any strong pressure on IP to stop the tire burn.

GMCR state that they support socially and environmentally responsible partnerships throughout the world. They could use the leverage of their relationship with IP to stop the burn now. Their environmental mission is in jeopardy, when all they've done is issue a lame public relations statement.

I don't want the adults or children I know in Addison County to breathe the poisons from IP's tire burn. The science is clear that the fine particulates are the most dangerous to human health, and IP will not be testing for them.

Vermont is working to clean up Lake Champlain, but IP is spewing toxic air and water contaminants into the Lake Champlain Basin. Plans to burn sludge are also irreprehensible without an ESP (Electrostatic Precipitator). Sludge burning at the Ticonderoga plant will endanger the health of all downwind residents of the Champlain Valley.

  • Sludge burning has been associated with increased emissions of toxic heavy metals
  • Sludge burning has been associated with emissions of cancer-causing dioxin compounds
  • The Ticonderoga power boiler lacks the proper pollution control equipment (an ESP) required to remove small particles (PM 2.5) - the most hazardous form of particulate air pollutants
  • Burning sludge would be at least as dangerous to human health as burning tires

It is way past time for this industry to do business in responsible ways that protect our air and water.

Until IP becomes a responsible neighbour, stops the tire burn, and installs an ESP, I am not buying Green Mountain Coffee nor buying IP paper. I will purchase products from this Vermont business when it bears significant weight on IP to do the right thing. If you're a coffee drinker and care about our water and air quality in Vermont, I urge you to do the same!

Dema Whatta?

The Dems: Prowar, procorporation, antiunion, antiworker [they will throw a bone], american exceptionalism, and a foreign policy based on american exceptionalism and imperialism. Although the rhetoric will be nicer and the pretense of cooperation will be there, basically they are less arrogant republicans.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee Chair Rahm Emanuel may gloat all he wants to over this "win," but Burlingtonians, Vermonters, and Americans who voted for the Dems have just not woken up: Emanuel, Dean, and the rest of the "progressive" DLC are republican-lite.

Burlington Voted!

The results for Burlington are here.

It was a clean sweep for the Democratic candidates.

I was, of course, following the Justice of the Peace races, since I'd campaigned for my friend and independent candidate, Owen Mulligan. He came in thirty-fourth. There were forty-two candidates for fifteen spots. Fourteen Democrats and one Republican (Kurt Wright - state rep in the New North End ) got elected. Name recognition helped, then. But my guess is that the voters (if they bothered to flip the ballot over and choose) just went on the Democratic bandwagon and checked off for those candidates, with narry a thought. Sure, there were some Democratic voters who voted for Owen, but if they also voted for their party's candidate, that pretty much negated a vote for Owen. He was the only independent candidate who campaigned... on diversity. It's a shame that didn't happen in the results.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Democrats are not the solution.

Peter Freyne's blog post on Wednesday told us of Howard Dean's visit to Burlington to help his fellow Democratic Party candidates.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee (a born-and-raised Goldwater Republican, let’s not forget), told the gang that if next Tuesday’s election were held today, his party - the Democratic Party - would win back a majority in the House and the vote in the Senate would be a tie, as of today.

Chairman Dean said he’s feeling “optimistic.” He said “People want change and they’re going to get change.”

Joshua Frank on Counterpunch has a different angle on Dr Dean and the Dems.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has promised there will not be a change of course in Iraq if the Democrats take back Congress. Potential House leader Nancy Pelosi has assured voters that impeachment is not in the cards for Bush, either. Yet the liberal establishment is beaconing antiwar voters to clamor for the Democratic Party next Tuesday. It seems like 2004 all over again.

I recently disparaged the positions of progressive media critic Jeff Cohen and The Nation magazine for not supporting independent antiwar candidates, and instead calling for more of the same: i.e. voting for the Democrats even though we disagree with them on the war and a host of other issues. If we want to take on Bush, they argue, the Democrats have to take back Congress, and only then can we start to build a genuine progressive movement.

In the meantime, however, the war will rage on and Bush will remain at the helm of Empire with Congress's blessing. As the Washington Post reported on August 27, of the 46 candidates in tight House races this year, 29 oppose a timetable for troop withdraw. That's a whopping 63% of Democrats in hotly contested races who have exactly the same position on the war as our liar-in-chief, George W. Bush.


The Nation magazine, despite an editorial last year which claimed they would not support pro-war Democrats, has provided virtually no coverage of third party antiwar campaigns. After an editorial staff meeting with Sen. Hillary Clinton's antiwar challenger Howie Hawkins, The Nation still wouldn't write a word about his campaign, even though he is receiving over 20% of the independent vote here in New York. Nor would the magazine discuss Kevin Zeese's antiwar unity run in Maryland, where Zeese has brought together a unique alliance of Green, Populists and Libertarians.


However, the more theoretical among these liberal careerists have a popular front philosophy: where they align with the liberal bourgeoisie against the reactionary capitalists. But when push comes to shove the liberals of the ruling elite always prefer repression to democracy -- something ol' Karl Marx recognized during the 1848 democratic revolutions in Europe and the Left in the US should have recognized when the industrial wing of the Republican Party sabotaged Radical Reconstruction last century.

But that may be a bit too analytical for such an obvious crisis: the Democrats and their patrons are part of the problem, not the solution.