Saturday, October 28, 2006

Owen Mulligan for Justice of the Peace

My letter to the Freepress supporting Owen's candidacy for JP was published yesterday.

While the office of justice of the peace may not be as exciting as the office of U.S. senator or member of Congress, it is still important -- one of Vermont's oldest and most highly sought offices -- with 42 candidates seeking election this November in Burlington.

The 15 who end up getting elected in Burlington will have the vested power to certify civil unions and solemnize marriages. They will have the responsibility to deliver absentee ballots to ill or physically disabled voters. They will be entrusted to uphold the integrity of this office, which was created by the Vermont Constitution more than 200 years ago.

I hope that voters take the time to consider candidates for justice of the peace in Burlington and vote for whom they know or at least know something about. It is unfortunate that many voters simply don't vote for justices, cast votes for candidates they know next to nothing about, or play the political party game and quickly check off someone who has the Republican or Democratic affiliation.

On Nov. 7, I'll vote for independent candidate Owen Mulligan for justice of the peace. He's an active volunteer worker in the community. He cares about this city and the democratic process. Owen was appointed by the Board of Civil Authority as an acting justice of the peace to deliver absentee ballots for this year's primary election. Owen has the independence and passion to do the job right, and that's what matters to me.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Empowering our Elders" Series at Ohavi Zedek


On Sunday, November 12th, between 1:30 and 4 p.m., members of the Social Justice/Vermont Interfaith Action committee of the Ohavi Zedek synagogue will be sponsoring the first of three community forums on “Empowering Our Elders” at Ohavi Zedek synagogue, 188 North Prospect St. , Burlington .

The November 12th forum will explore some of the challenging housing issues facing our aging population.

Starting with testimony highlighting problems and challenges for elders both within our congregation and the larger Chittenden County, the forum will then continue with brief presentations describing a variety of existing programs and exciting potential housing options for elders – including small grants for home modifications; cooperative housing opportunities; assisted living facilities; home sharing possibilities; and an overview of some innovative approaches to senior housing being taken outside of Vermont.

Local groups represented will include the Vermont Center for Independent Living, HomeShare Vermont , and the Cathedral Square Corporation.

“Break out” sessions following the presentations will allow participants to interact with the speakers and with one another. Information and ideas solicited from participants at the close of the forum will help guide a task force developed after the event in identifying next steps for effective action and support.

This event is free and all are welcome to attend and participate. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Ohavi Zedek synagogue at 864-0218.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bona Fide

Was listening to the Democracy Now! program today (10/25). The whole show was devoted to Green candiates running for various offices across the nation. Rachel Treichler, running as a Green for Attorney General just across the Lake, in New York, was one of several mentioned. My ears perked up because Rachel and I were students at The Mountain School in Vershire (she gradudated a few years after I did). TMS was a small school, but its grads sure make their mark!

The League of Women Voters of New York withdrew its sponsorship of the three candidate debates because Green candidates were excluded from participation in them. .

Sources from the two stations sponsoring the debates told Metroland, an alternative weekly in Albany, that it was Cuomo’s camp which refused to participate in the debates if Treichler were to be included.

The League also withdrew its sponsorship of a debate between Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton and Republican Challenger John Spencer after Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins was excluded from taking part. In a press release announcing their decision, the League stated that they had determined that the Republican, Democrat and Green candidates were all bona fide contestants and should have all been included in the debates

From the Metroland article:

Treichler had petitioned weeks earlier to be included in the League of Women Voters’ proposed three attorney-general debates. In a letter, she argued her qualifications: ballot access, financial compliance with New York State Board of Elections, voter interest and serious media coverage. The league, in turn, commissioned a Zogby poll in which Treichler polled 17 percent of the vote among independent voters. It was decided that she was a viable candidate.

The whirlwind began for the 55-year-old environmental activist and lawyer when she found out that she would likely face off with Cuomo and Pirro at WXXI in Rochester and at WABC in Manhattan, and Pirro at WCNY in Syracuse. “Oh my goodness, I have to prepare for this great opportunity,” declared Treichler, after learning that she was going to be included in the debates cosponsored by the League of Women Voters. “I was going to be in New York City for several events, but I asked some friends to practice with me. I spent all weekend practicing.”

She was hoping to bring some rational discourse to a race that so far has been mired in personal scandal.

At the last minute, however, Treichler learned that she wasn’t going to be included in any of the debates. Cuomo wasn’t interested, she says, in debating a third-party candidate, and his camp put the pressure on to not include her.

“Apparently, the three candidates couldn’t come to a consensus on who would be at the debate,” says a source within WCNY (who wished to remain anonymous). Unwilling to name Cuomo, the source points out that both Treichler and Pirro were willing to debate each other, adding, “You do the math.” It is the station’s policy to call off a debate if all of the viable candidates are not able to agree on the specifics of the debate. So once Cuomo’s camp made it clear they wouldn’t debate if Treichler was invited, WCNY decided not to host the debate at all.

WXXI and WABC went ahead with their respective debates, however, without Treichler. An employee at WXXI confirms that Cuomo’s camp made it very clear: He would not appear with a Green Party candidate.

Gotta love those Dems - throwin' the same shit they did with Nader and Greens back in 2000 and 2004. We do indeed deserve better, dontcha think?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Clearing the Air on Christie

Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey and ex-EPA head, was at Champlain College yesterday, to promote the Rainville candidacy.

Welch campaign spokesman Andrew Savage said Monday, "Sending another Republican to Washington will only further enable the leadership and committee chairs that have launched a frontal assault on basic environmental protections."

Savage questioned Whitman's and Rainville's environmental commitment and their ability to stand up to the Bush administration. Citing Rainville's opposition to a pending wilderness bill, her support for nuclear power and comments she made questioning whether global warming is entirely a manmade problem, Savage said, "Martha Rainville's positions are in line with the current Republican leadership."

"Whitman was head of the EPA while the administration blatantly edited reports to deny global warming," Savage said. "She's certainly not a leading environmentalist."

FreyneLand covers the Whitman visit, too, and adds the email text he received from VIRPG exec director, Paul Burns, commenting on the Whitman record at EPA:

Inviting Christine Todd Whitman to bolster her (General Rainville’s) environmental credentials is like asking the Keystone Cops to endorse her stand on tough law enforcement.

The current Bush administration has been more antagonistic toward public health and environmental programs than any other in recent American history. President Bush’s shameful record on the environment includes rejection of modest steps to address climate change, more logging and motorized vehicles in our national forests, support for oil drilling in pristine wildlife preserves, weakened air pollution standards for aging industrial plants, increased secrecy concerning industrial toxic emissions, and initial support to allow more arsenic in drinking water.

As Administrator of the EPA, Ms. Whitman presided over one rollback after another of landmark programs designed to reduce pollution, protect public health, and preserve our precious natural heritage.

As a willing participant in the Bush administration’s army of environmental destruction, Ms. Whitman lacks credibility as a serious environmental leader.

Neither the BFP story nor Freyne's account mentions the lawsuit against the EPA brought by Jena Orkin and others claiming that her constitutional right to be protected from harm by government officials was violated when "Christine Todd Whitman, then the EPA administrator, and her staff made false statements [it's been caught on tape ] and failed to carry out its cleanup duties."

Within days of the World Trade Center collapse, someone ordered Environmental Protection Agency administrators to tell New Yorkers the air was safe. ... No matter that private tests showed the air remained full of lead, asbestos, mercury, benzene. No matter that, according to documents forced out of the EPA by a Freedom of Information request, the agency's own tests agreed that the air in Lower Manhattan--who wanted to bother with Brooklyn?--wasn't fit to breathe.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Are you ready for Election Day?

"Voting is a civic sacrament." -- Father Theodore Hesburgh

As a faithful Episcopalian, I believe that voting is a critical part of my call to “strive for justice and peace.” As Election Day approaches, I wanted to provide you with resources to help you make the most of your opportunity to vote.

Not sure if you are registered to vote? Wondering where your polling place is? Need to find out about early voting or absentee ballots? Are you curious about the candidates? If you live in Burlington, Vermont (where I am located), check out BurlingtonVoterPower to find the answers.

If you don't live in Vermont, and are wondering if you're registered to vote, the National Association of Secretaries of State has put together a web site that can help answer all of these questions and more in just 7 easy steps.

Fortunately, where I live - in Vermont - we don't have many problems counting votes and making every vote count.

But in other states (Ohio, Arizona, and Florida come to mind) that may not be the case. Volunteers are needed for Election Protection 2006! The National Committee for Fair Elections needs your help to assist voters around the country on and before Election Day. Attorneys, law students, and paralegals are needed to help staff the national hotline before Election Day in Washington, DC and on Election Day in Washington, DC, New York City, San Francisco, CA and at local call centers throughout the country. Volunteers with legal training are also needed in targeted locations to serve in various roles on Election Day. Don't have a legal background? You can still sign up to volunteer. NCFE need many volunteers to make Election Protection a success. For more information or to volunteer, visit the National Committee for Fair Elections.


If you do nothing else today watch this video of sworn testimony by a computer programmer on his design of software to rig the 2000 Florida election. The programmer, Clint Curtis, was a staunch Republican at the time but has since switched and is now running against the man he accuses on the video: Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida.

Thanks to Undernews, you can read more and click to the video here.


Are there computer programs that can be used to secretly fix elections?


How do you know that to be the case?

Because in October of 2000, I wrote a prototype for Congressman Tom Feeney [R-FL]...

It would rig an election?

It would flip the vote, 51-49. Whoever you wanted it to go to and whichever race you wanted to win.

And would that program that you designed, be something that elections officials... could detect?

They'd never see it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When Lawyers Are War Criminals

Below is a must-read now that the Congress has passed the Military Commissions Act.

Remarks delivered by Scott Horton at the ASIL Centennial Conference on The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, Bowling Green, OH, Oct. 7, 2006.

I've noted the salient points below, but you can read all of it here. What that man in the White House and the government lawyers have demanded of Congress and what Republicans and the enabling Democrats in Congress, most of whom are lawyers themselves, have given them on a silver platter is pure mendacity and a clear threat to all of us; I cringe at what it means for our country - it tears at the very foundation of American Justice.

In a proper society, the lawyers are the guardians of law, and in times of war, their role becomes solemn. [...] Do they show fidelity to the law? Do they recognize that the law of armed conflict, with its protections for disarmed combatants, for civilians and for detainees, reflects a particularly powerful type of law – as [Robert] Jackson said "the basic building blocks of civilization"? Do they appreciate that in this area of law, above all others, the usual lawyerly tricks of dicing and splicing, of sophist subversion, cannot be tolerated?

These are questions [...] that the US-led prosecution team in Nuremberg asked. They are questions that Americans should be asking today about the conduct of government lawyers who have seriously wounded, if not destroyed, the Geneva system.


I want to ask today: What has this legislation done to the legacy of Nuremberg? Has it granted impunity to persons who committed war crimes? Is that impunity effective, and might it have unintended consequences?

At Nuremberg, Justice Jackson promised that this process would not be "victor's justice." He said "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well." Powerful words. A moral compact. Did the Bush Administration seek to repudiate Jackson's commitment? This can be answered quite clearly: yes. But did they succeed? That is less clear. But before getting to that point, I want to deconstruct some myths that the Administration has generated to obscure their entire process.


The initial draft makes clear that the White House sought impunity for crimes arising as a result of the use of three techniques that the Bush Administration (and, from the remarkable wording of one of Bush's press conferences, Bush himself) authorized and which constitute grave breaches under Common Article 3: waterboarding, long-time standing (or as it was called by its NKVD inventors, in Russian: stoika) and hypothermia or cold cell. The use of these techniques is a criminal act. The purported authorization of these techniques is a criminal act. The larger effort to employ them constitutes a joint criminal enterprise.

The Act does not alter the fact that these practices are outlawed by Common Article 3. However, by creating a series of specifically chargeable crimes that weave and bob through the historical offenses, the drafters apparently seek to make it more difficult to prosecute these offenses in US courts.



The legacy of Nuremberg and the solemn undertaking that Justice Jackson gave for the United States at the opening session, are under assault by the Bush Administration, which has embraced a radical world view that rests on a cult of power and a disdain for law. And fundamentally, this Administration has a notorious allergy against accountability in any form. But this conference is evidence that the spirit of Nuremberg has not been extinguished in the United States. And indeed, the flickering candle that was lit at Nuremberg has developed into principles which form the heart of the international legal order. We bear witness to those principles with this conference.

Thursday, October 5, 2006


The Foley story has been covered 24x7 by the US media for several days now. The fallout continues apace. Bloggers and media pundits on the left and right are having a hissy fit.

In the US, it seems, sex trumps everything or is it that all other sleazy activities are considered "just normal behaviour" for politicians? My European friends look aghast at the headlines and find it incomprehensible that a sex scandal can galvanise voters so much that it becomes the deciding factor in an election. Lying, cheating, bribery and corruption in government vis
á vis stolen elections, Katrina, Iraq, etc. barely get a headline.

I explain to them the real problem is that Mark Foley was in a position of power. Real power. Acting in a supervisory position to these young people, Foley accepted this role; then he proceeded to violate the trust and responsibility that comes with it. Each young person he came into contact with him was basically placed at the mercy of someone who had a surreptitious agenda. Those whom he found "hot" got his special attention, as can be seen in those instant messages and e-mails. Foley's attorney states he [Foley] has never had any sexual contact with underage kids in the past. But he was obviously attempting to initiate such contact with these male pages. (I've read that some of the male pages caught on to his game and brought female pages along to the dinner meetings.)

Foley's game is the ideal example of the powerful attempting to manipulate the less powerful. Or, in this case, the least powerful in the Congressional milieu - adolescent pages. Sex is an element of such behaviour (and irrespective of that, I still believe that sixteen year-olds are mature and capable enough to make their own decisions and choices about their sexual activities with whomever they choose), but this whole story is really about harrassment, control and manipulation.

And it's about Foley's colleagues in Washington abusing their power in attempting to cover up for his misdeeds, when they knew about them months ago, for some legislators, for nearly a year, before the story broke last Friday.