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!"