Friday, March 28, 2008


Dutch MP Geert Wilders' release this week of his new film Fitma (an Arabic word for Ordeal), has received world-wide coverage. (Headline in today's Parool: 'The hype was better than the film'.) He not as flashy as Pim Fortuyn, another populist right-wing bigot politician who was assassinated in May, 2002. However Wilders + Fortuyn=media whore and do/did anything for attention.

Martin at Wis[s]e Words writes that it's not worth the bandwidth:
I don't really want to pay too much attention to his silly little film, because it is nothing but the usual warmed over Islamophobic cliches. You know the drill: the Islam is threatening your freedom, it wants to subjugate the entire world and kill all the unbelievers, it leads to terrorism (cue images of the September 11 attacks) and so on. Bo-oring.
Here's a short film produced by Radio Netherlands Worldwide about Fitma and Wilders -- and his effect on the multi-cultural Netherlands --


For years I've felt that national NPR news is really National Propaganda Radio. But what to do? I live in Vermont and (trying not to sound too elitist) the only "sophisticated" radio stations for listening in my car are out of northern New York and Vermont. North Country Public Radio is scruffier than Vermont Public Radio. I just like the down-home feel of NCPR's music programs and its in depth local news reports. (Although Jane Lindholm's Vermont Edition has been tackling some serious topics lately.) Both stations just completed fundraisers. NCPR's was true to its laid back style; VPR's, however, was fucking sanctimonious and geared for those localvore-consuming-faux-socialists. Maybe it's just their Vermont reserve I find annoying, but if I have to hear any more of Isn't Vermont heaven on Earth? shit, I'll start to vomit.

Richard Estes/American Leftist has a great post on why he doesn't listen to NPR! I would have to agree with his reasons for avoiding NPR for years. He provides links from a recent FAIR critique on the coverage on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war and an article by Norman Soloman on how NPR just repeats the official Washington scripts. Richard makes an excellent point about NPR's avoiding discomforting news stories. I try to avoid to Day to Day when driving my car. That show should be called Dumbed Down Radio!


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An appeals court Thursday upheld Mumia Abu-Jamal's conviction for murdering a police officer 27 years ago but rejected prosecutors' request to reinstate the death penalty for the former Black Panther.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that because the jury that sentenced Abu-Jamal to die was given flawed instructions in the penalty phase, he must either get a new sentencing hearing or be sentenced to life in prison.
I've been following Mumia's appeals on his case for a while. Here is the Free Mumia website.

Jeralyn at TalkLeft has a post up about it.
Mumia's supporters are unhappy and planning protests:
They said rallies were being planned for as early as tomorrow outside federal courthouses in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
What's next?
Either side could ask the panel to reconsider the decision, ask the entire Third Circuit to consider the case, or eventually ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


From Real News: Phil Donahue talks about corporate media and the Iraq war:

Monday, March 24, 2008


Update on Tuesday 25 March: WCAX covered the story (there's a video), and I'm quoted in the on-line report.


Here are my remarks made tonight during the public forum at the Burlington City Council meeting regarding the resolution calling for an ad-hoc committee on municipal government transparency.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you all tonight.
I would like to speak in support of the proposed ad-hoc committee designed to address government openness and transparency.

Many citizens’ recent experiences have led them to believe that decisions in Burlington can be made in proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” behind “closed doors.” In the 8 years since my return to Vermont, I have a keen appreciation for the way good government operates, as opposed to my experiences of “good ol’ boy” shenanigans when I lived in Texas. Although we know that in a literal sense our Mayor and City Council members are not meeting somewhere smoking cigars and shaking hands after hours, the perception of an opaque rather than a transparent system has left the public questioning the entire process we are supposed to trust in our great democracy. Many people feel like they cannot trust the process, because when they do, projects like Westlake are allowed to occur. The public is left feeling outraged, cynical, and isolated.

This ad-hoc committee addresses these negative perceptions in our community, and begins to rebuild the trust that has apparently been lost. As a member of Vermont Interfaith Action, a coalition of seven congregations in Burlington representing 2,000 families, I have heard a lot about the isolation and frustration people feel about many processes in Burlington.

VIA hosted a public meeting last February where 300 members of our congregations and the public came, along with our Mayor, CEDO director, City Attorney, and many City Council members. Although the meeting’s agenda specifically addressed the Westlake development and its development flaws, that project serves as an example of how the system in general can fail the public. We asked the Mayor and other City officials to join VIA in a partnership to address some of the issues we identified in our six months of research regarding the Westlake development, including issues about the lack of transparency involved in the process itself.

VIA believes the proposed committee you are considering tonight addresses the concerns of many of our congregations’ members, and is a step toward rebuilding the relationship between government and the people. I ask you to approve formation of this committee. I will even go further to ask you to consider me for appointment to this committee, not only as an engaged and informed Burlington resident, but also as a member of Vermont Interfaith Action.

Thank you again for the council’s commitment and willingness to address and rectify the perception of closed and broken government.
The City Council resolution passed unanimously, with some amendments. During the back-and-forth discussion before the actual vote, one of the Councilors rather condescendingly and in a needlessly defensive manner singled out my comments, calling attention to my reference to back room politics; he clearly did not listen to what I was saying. The public perception is that a lot Burlington's governmental processes are done in an almost-stealth manner (e.g. Westlake); decisions are made before the public has had an opportunity to chime in; oversight commissions appointed by City Council need to make sure the public is involved every step of the way. Now that this resolution has been approved, next steps include a public forum asking citizens what their concerns are about open government and transparency and what they want this committee to address.

Apparently, my remarks were to be featured on tonight's Channel 3 news at 11. I don't subscribe to cable television, so if anyone saw me on WCAX, please let me know what they covered, or didn't!


From the Presiding Bishop's Message for Easter 2008, particularly about our responsibility to care for the Earth and all of Creation
The Judaeo-Christian tradition has been famously blamed for much of the current environmental crisis, particularly for our misreading of Genesis 1:28 as a charge to "fill the earth and subdue it." Our forebears were so eager to distinguish their faith from the surrounding Canaanite religion and its concern for fertility that some of them worked overtime to separate us from an awareness of "the hand of God in the world about us," especially in a reverence for creation. How can we love God if we do not love what God has made?

We base much of our approach to loving God and our neighbors in this world on our baptismal covenant. Yet our latest prayer book was written just a bit too early to include caring for creation among those explicit baptismal promises. I would invite you to explore those promises a bit more deeply -- where and how do they imply caring for the rest of creation?

We are beginning to be aware of the ways in which our lack of concern for the rest of creation results in death and destruction for our neighbors. We cannot love our neighbors unless we care for the creation that supports all our earthly lives. We are not respecting the dignity of our fellow creatures if our sewage or garbage fouls their living space. When atmospheric warming, due in part to the methane output of the millions of cows we raise each year to produce hamburger, begins to slowly drown the island homes of our neighbors in the South Pacific, are we truly sharing good news?
You may read the full text here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


"Enough with the slaughter. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!"

As Juan Cole of Informed Comment writes, 'Someone should put it to music and sing it at peace rallies.'


In the past several years, people in The Netherlands have been reflecting on what it means to be Dutch. Call it navel-gazing, but spurred on by the Pim Fortuyn show, and the brouhaha after Theo van Gogh's assassination, not a day goes by when you don't read about it. When Suriname became independent 30 years ago, planeloads of Surinamers fled their country to The Netherlands. Now, according to the New York Times, Suriname is undergoing a reflection about its language(s) and using it as a means to break away from its colonial past.
“We shook off the chains of Dutch colonialism in the 1970s, but our consciousness remains colonized by the Dutch language,” said Paul Middellijn, 58, a writer who composes poetry in Sranan Tongo.

Nevertheless, Mr. Middellijn said English should be declared Suriname’s national language, a position shared by many Surinamese who want stronger links to the Caribbean and North America. “Sranan will survive because nothing can replace it as the language of the street,” he said.

“It is a form of communication perfect not just for poets but for the Chinese groceryman or Brazilian miner who arrived a few months ago,” he continued. “Are they going to go through the trouble of learning Dutch? No way.”
“I do not speak Sranan,” said Suprijanto Muhadi, the ambassador from Indonesia, the former Dutch colony that sent Javanese laborers here until the eve of World War II. “But a manservant I brought from Indonesia a year ago picked it up much easier than Dutch.”

The use of Sranan became associated with nationalist politics after Desi Bouterse, a former dictator, began using Sranan in his speeches in the 1980s. The slogan of his National Democratic Party, the biggest in Suriname, remains “Let a faya baka!” Sranan for “Turn the lights back on!” or, figuratively, get things working again.


I missed one of Sam Smith's posts last week over at Undernews I would have to agree with this part of his appraisal of Barack Obama. -- [my emphasis] --
So it may not seem hopelessly weird for me to admit that when I see Obama my first image is not that of a black man, but of a Harvard Law School graduate. If I had to choose one stereotype that would be it, which is to say an intelligent, analytical, somewhat self-possessed and arrogant fellow of innate caution and limited imagination. The sort of person you'd want around to handle your divorce or complete your merger, but far from the prophet whose role he has been assigned.

If you examine his politics even slightly, you would be hard to find one example of Obama saying or doing anything much out of the ordinary. You will, however, find many things with which progressives would have cause to disagree: his lousy healthcare plan, his support of the Iraq war after 2002, his approval of Bill Clinton's assault on social welfare, his uninspiring record on environmental issues, his support of the war on drugs, Real ID, the PATRIOT ACT, the death penalty and No Child Left Behind.

Does this matter, and it is cause for something less than applause? I think so.

Then there are his words. The embarrassing truth is that Obama bores me. I find him platitudinous, single toned, , sometime pompous and often guilty of that classic Washington sin described once as confusing somberness with seriousness. To be sure, I don't like listening to most politicians these days, but there is something so predictable and annoyingly didactic about Obama, as though he was trying to bring a bunch of freshman students up to speed, that I tend to turn him off and read the text instead.

I have a suspicion that my reaction may be one reason why Obama has a hard time reaching less than elite whites. It's not that he can't reach across the ethnic divide; it's the class divide that keeps him apart. He talks like someone who considers himself better than his audience.
But also understand that Hillary Clinton doesn't have much to offer, either. Both are cut from the same arrogant centrist Democratic Party cloth.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Collect for the Feast of the Resurrection:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

To quote The Rev'd Bill Carroll, who also has an Easter sermon at Episcopal Café --

Easter blessings to everyone. Christ is risen, destroying all that degrades and enslaves us, and making us citizens of the Commonwealth of God, in which none is afore, none after.


INDEPENDENT by Ben Russell 22 March 2008 Water will be source of war unless world acts now, warns minister
The world faces a future of "water wars", unless action is taken to prevent international water shortages and sanitation issues escalating into conflicts, according to Gareth Thomas, the International Development minister.

The minister's warning came as a coalition of 27 international charities marked World Water Day, by writing to Gordon Brown demanding action to give fresh water to 1.1 billion people with poor supplies. "If we do not act, the reality is that water supplies may become the subject of international conflict in the years ahead," said Mr Thomas. "We need to invest now to prevent us having to pay that price in the future."

His department warned that two-thirds of the world's population will live in water-stressed countries by 2025. The stark prediction comes after the Prime Minister said in his national security strategy that pressure on water was one of the factors that could help countries "tip into instability, state failure or conflict".

The coalition of charities has appealed for a global effort to bring running water to the developing world and supply sanitation to a further 2.6 billion people. It said international action was needed to prevent competition for water destabilising communities and escalating into conflicts.

In their letter, the campaigners say: "Tackling the water and sanitation crisis is essential if the 'Millennium Development Goal Call to Action' is to be a success, otherwise progress on health, education and environmental sustainability will be undermined. Each year 443 million school days are lost globally to diarrhoea and 1.8 million children die unnecessarily from these diseases.

"Investing in sanitation and water brings the greatest public health gains of any single development intervention and delivers huge economic returns. The G8 would do well to heed the development history of east Asian countries that put tackling these issues at the forefront of their national development efforts."

Ministers agree the world needs to take urgent action to avoid missing Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. That target should be met, although progress has been limited in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr Brown's security strategy said "rising temperatures together with extreme weather will increase pressures on water supplies". It went on: "A growing and increasingly urbanised global population will increase demand for food and water, at the same time as climate change and other trends put greater pressure on their supply.

"Already well over 1 billion people suffer from water shortages and 30 countries get more than a third of their water from outside their borders. With climate change, those figures are likely to grow, increasing the possibility of disputes."

Charlie Kronick, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace, said the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, most of south Asia and western South America were at risk of water shortages if global warming continues.

"There is no doubt that climate change is going to be potentially the biggest source of water stress," he said. "If average global temperatures go more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels you are looking at 2 to 3 billion people potentially suffering water shortages. It's a pretty serious business."
Locally, Vermonters for a Clean Environment: On Water

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, 30 April 1909 – 20 March 2004

It's four years already - time flies - that our dear Queen Juliana of the Netherlands passed away. We remember that foggy day in March.
A great and warm human being. I remember traveling to Ottawa, Canada to attend the memorial service at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (where the then-Princess Juliana and her daughters had attended services during their exile during World War II - and where Princess Margriet was baptised).

From the Tribute at the funeral service in Delft on 30 March 2004 --
What made Princess Juliana so special was her warm heart. People do not remember her as the queen in the state portraits they saw in public buildings. The image that left the deepest impression on them was the one of her standing in the mud in her rubber boots in Zeeland during the 1953 floods, with wind-swept hair and fluttering headscarf. The expression on her face was one of deepest sympathy and powerlessness. At that moment, she was perhaps at her most royal, in the truest sense of the word: genuinely at one with her people in their hour of need and in their grief.



Paul Scofield, an actor best known for his role as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons and Col. von Waldheim in The Train, has died. The Times obit is here, and Benedict Nightingale has an appraisal:
Why didn't most theatregoers think of Paul Scofield in the way they thought of Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson? After all, he had pretty well all the qualities, from Olivier's danger through Gielgud's grace to Richardson's soul, that we admired in the 20th century's most renowned triumvirate.
There were two main reasons for his relative neglect, the first of which is a terrible comment on our honours system. He refused a knighthood, later telling me that "if you want a title what's wrong with Mr?". Sadly, this meant that when people talked of our pre-eminent actors, he tended to get forgotten or relegated below Derek Jacobi and Ben Kingsley.

The other reason is that he didn't want to be a household name, let alone a celeb. He seldom gave interviews and never appeared on chat shows, but lived quietly and modestly in Sussex, taking the local train to London when work demanded and invariably returning the same night. It was the art, not the fame, that mattered to him. He was an extraordinary actor content to be an ordinary man.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


As the lack of coverage of the Winter Soldier hearings has proved, the corporate media is not open to the full extent of anti-war feeling, so this blogswarm is one aspect of new media filling the gaps left by institutions who (despite some mea culpas over their cheerleading of the rush to war 5 years ago) still feel most comfortable reflecting elite opinion. I am put in mind of two oft quoted phrases: "Be the change you want to see in the world"-(Mahatma Gandhi) & Be The Media! Combined we are doing that, we are being the media but a different media, we are enacting a change, not beholden to corporate interests or imperial objectives. A grassroots, human movement of global reach and consciousness.

Today's post is for the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. I found (thanks to Lenin's Tomb) these captivating & moving videos of Mike Prysner who testified about the horrendous US Occupation of Iraq at Winter Soldier:

More about Mike Prysner here.

View more testimonies at The Real News.

Check out the 300 (+) other anti-war Iraq blogswarmers.

And while you're at it, check out the Warrior Writers: Combat Paper.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1 € = $ 1.58

24oranges (via The dollar drops and droops -
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar’s value is dropping so fast against the euro that small currency outlets in Amsterdam are turning away tourists seeking to sell their dollars for local money while on vacation in the Netherlands.

“Our dollar is worth maybe zero over here,” said Mary Kelly, an American tourist from Indianapolis, Indiana, in front of the Anne Frank house. “It’s hard to find a place to exchange. We have to go downtown, to the central station or post office.”

That’s because the smaller currency exchanges — despite buy/sell spreads that make it easier for them to make money by exchanging small amounts of currency — don’t want to be caught holding dollars that could be worth less by the time they can sell them.

The dollar hovered near record lows on Monday, with one euro worth around $1.58 versus $1.47 a month ago.


Newsflash: The director Anthony Minghella has died, aged 54 years (so young!), it was announced today. He directed Truly Madly Deeply, which I loved; The English Patient, which I thought over-long and boring; and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which I found disturbing.


For good information on the current tumble-down of the economy, check out Calculated Risk, a finance & economic blog I've recently found - recommended by Richard Estes of American Leftist:
They post frequently during the day in response to events, and the comments are absolutely phenomenal, with some more radical than what you would encounter on political blogs, because some of the posters understand the relationship between the methods of crony capitalism and political power. It is, despite its absence of any overt ideological perspective, one of the most left blog sites around because the events that it examines are essential for any leftist to understand when contemplating the future of neoliberal capitalism and the American Empire.

Monday, March 17, 2008


A message and invitation from the Burlington Board of Health [I'm a Commissioner] to the community--

To: All Concerned Parties, [...]

From: Burlington Board of Health

Re: School Inspections, in particular, the BHS Air Quality Case

The Burlington Board of Health represents both the citizens and the administration of Burlington . We are a voluntary group, appointed to serve by the City Council, and according to our City Charter Article 85 “The Board of Health created herein provided shall be for the said city in lieu of the local board of health provided for by the general laws of this state, and shall have the powers conferred by said laws upon the committee on health of the board of aldermen.” The authority of the Board of Health is further delineated in City Charter Articles 86 and 87; Burlington Ordinance Codes, Chapter 17, and Vermont Statute, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 11. In particular, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 11, § 608: Inspections of schoolhouses and public buildings provides power to the board for its oversight of any problem solving currently being conducted at Burlington High School .

In this case, the Burlington Board of Health wants to assist with finding a satisfactory solution. Like all of you, we believe that every inspection must be comprehensive, using current technological and scientific procedures and standards, and should be scheduled adequately to maintain continuing good health of the school environment. If an unhealthy or potentially unhealthy condition exists, the Board expects timely remediation of the condition(s).

In order to be current and effective in the matter, the board needs to hear the perspectives of all parties involved. We extend this invitation for you to send a representative to our Monday, April 7 meeting at the DPW office, conference room on Pine Street . The meeting will run from 5:00 to 7:00 pm and sufficient time will be allowed for receipt of comments and discussion of the BHS situation. Since our meetings are open to the public-at-large, it is anticipated that other citizens may attend to present their views. All concerned parties are welcome.


although Benny has moved today's feast day because he doesn't think it should be during Lent.


"The boring list: 20 titans of tedium" from Friday's Independent
Bores do not all live in the public eye. Full many a stiff was born to bore unseen and waste his dullness on the desert air. But bores on the airwaves are special cases, because they grate on the spirit as well as fatigue the ear and brain. Among the current ranks of soi-disant celebrities are many colossal drones...
A lovely list, indeed. It gives another meaning to the term "show stoppers." I adore the acid tone piercing through John Walsh's commentary. You might need to have a smattering of knowledge about contemporary or recent past British movers and shakers, but here are my favourites on the list, which will be familiar to the hip, celebrity-watching American readers of BI.

Victoria Beckham
Nobody knows exactly how, with little talent for singing, dancing, acting or anything else, Vicky Adams came from nowhere to world stardom, via the millions-spinning Spice Girls and marriage to a god-like footballer, but her number should surely be up by now. She's become a pose without any suggestion of a real person behind it, a walking retail-opportunity, a painfully skinny-legged, black-leather-clad, damson-bosomed freakshow. Whether attempting to "conquer" America by showing that British girls can go shopping just as frantically as Paris Hilton, or flying to G8 summits for the paparazzi attention, she's become globally ubiquitous. Can you really stand to see that pout and those shades one more time?
The Duke of York
Many of the royals are terrible bores – it goes with the genetic disposition – but Andrew is a special case. While other princes display a passion for their hobbies and interests (Charles for organic farming, Edward for showbiz, Harry for cocktails, chicks and guns), Andrew seems content just to visit agreeable golf courses in sunny lands. His flighty wife, Sarah, divorced him for wanting to spend every night in, watching TV. His pronouncements are, without exception, leaden. Visiting the US last month, as our special representative for international trade, when asked if he thought the situation in Iraq was getting better, he said, "That's almost a university PhD question." There is no such thing, Andrew, as a PhD question.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
A real hoo-hah engulfed the nation last month when the Archbishop appeared to suggest that sharia should be used in the British legal system. Bishops queued to denounce the idea. Politicians from left and right swooned with horror at "British values" being stretched to take in stoning to death and chopping hands off thieves. The press went ballistic. Even British Muslims were appalled. Then the truth emerged: Dr Williams had merely tried to "tease out" the idea, in a 7,000-word speech. All that fuss, because listeners were so bored by the prolix intellectual's words, that they seized on the one concrete suggestion in a howling gale of academic persiflage.
Delia Smith
It had all been going so well. She was Saint Delia, patron saint of not-very-good cooks everywhere. Devoutly Catholic, she offered succour, Virgin Mary-style, to kitchen-bound women and men who could hardly boil an egg. Celebrity chefs came and went, but her faithful stayed faithful. Delia was a mousy church-committee little woman, but by God she could lay out ingredients in little plates and make you understand how a boeuf bourgignon worked. Then, after an eight-year layoff, she returned last month with a reprinted book telling you How to Cheat at Cooking and recommending factory-farmed chicken. Abruptly, the scales fell from millions of eyes. She'd been a plain, suburban, Sainsbury's-loving fake all along!
Paul Burrell
Well on the way to becoming one of the nation's most disliked figures, Burrell has forged a career out of telling people very small things about his life as Princess Diana's butler. A career of standing behind famous people uttering discreet coughs has left him flogging his tiny expertise to ever-less-interested audiences. Most recently he was seen in Memphis, Tennessee, trying to interest an audience of elderly ladies in his own range of furniture. It's not the opportunism that makes him such a bore, though – it's that bumptiously oily delivery. "I tell it as it is," he told the Sun. "I tell it straight – that's who I am, I can't change who I am. I tell it as it is, and some people don't like that, but I am telling the truth." Oh do go away.
Bob Geldof
Permanently belligerent, hectoring pricker of British consciences and wearer of Ruritanian decorations.
And lastly,

Vanessa Redgrave
Veteran actress of Medea-like gravitas with leadenly boring, outspoken political views.
Posh Spice seems to be winning the poll of on-line Independent readers.

So, now I challenge you to make a list of your own fave American yawners...

Friday, March 14, 2008


Today, the Free Press has an editorial chastising the city for not pushing the developer of the Westlake property at Cherry and Battery to build affordable housing. Though not mentioned in the editorial, Vermont Interfaith Action was instrumental in making this travesty public. It took nearly a month for the Free Press to cover this story! As Sue Brooks, one of VIA's founding leaders, wrote in a My Turn column on Thursday -- about the VIA action with the mayor, city and CEDO officials on 10 Febuary (!)
I have to believe that our city officials were energized and empowered by the knowledge that there were 300 people in seven congregations who cared enough about affordable housing to give up a Sunday afternoon to fight for it. Surely that level of support helped them complete the negotiations so successfully.

I still have two questions. Will the city adopt the "open and transparent development process" that VIA has asked for so that we can avoid a recurrence of what happened at Westlake? I am confident that VIA will continue to hold their feet to the fire.

My second question is this: Why did a well-advertised meeting that was deemed important enough for the mayor, the new director of the Community and Economic Development Office, five city councilors, the city attorney and 300 citizens to attend fail to warrant any coverage in The Burlington Free Press?


First the state officials denied there was anything amiss in their office building in Bennington, then the authorities stonewalled any investigation. Now, after two years of institutional foot dragging, those effected will have to wait until 2009 for an 'official' investigation to take place.

The same 'sick building' scenario exists at Burlington High School. Although the Burlington case has been around for nearly as long as Bennington's, it was not public knowledge until Tuesday's school board meeting. I'm glad to say on Wednesday night, Burlington's Board of Health [I am a commissioner] got into the thick of it, too, and will carry out an investigation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Note, this post is not about what's happened today in the state to our west (enough already with the MSM yammering the last few days!), and although racism is playing out in the current Democratic presidential, it's not about that either.

Earlier this week I received an invitation from Anthony Pollina to events taking place this week. Supposedly tomorrow he'll make if official that he's running for governor.

We Can Do Better
is splashed across the invitation. I don't think we can with Mr Pollina.

Broadsides 10 March 2008
Please, can anyone out there other than the fawning Vermont media think anything other than “loser” when the name Anthony Pollina is mentioned? I can’t. And for good reason, too. He’s a loser. He loses elections (many of them). He loses in his issue efforts (many of them). And he even loses in court when – oddly – he challenged his rare victory with campaign finance reform. I guess it must have felt weird for him to actually win something so he went to court to fight it. Good for you, Tony. Keep that record clean.

We all know about Pollina’s electoral losing. He’s something like 0-for-5. But Pollina seems to get energized by losing the way most politicians are energized by winning. The average politician, for example, begins with a lower office, wins, aims higher, wins and so forth. Not Pollina. He aims high, starting with a run for Congress, loses, and then just keeps aiming high for jobs like governor (a couple of times) and keeps losing. What’s worse is that each time he loses – and loses big – Pollina acts like he won. “Wow, I’m up to over 20% of the vote! Wait’ll next time!”

Pollina and the Dems

Michael continues in the 3/10 post, writing about this new group of Democrats for Pollina (United because Jim Douglas has got to go!)
It’s a not-so-veiled attempt to “prove” that Pollina is getting gobs of support from mainstream Dems in his Prog bid for the governorship. The group is officially launching a “write-in” campaign for Pollina in the Democratic primary in September. Since Pollina will be on the Prog’s primary ballot, he can’t be on the Dems’.

After a bit of simple research, Michael has written in a post yesterday that a good number of those "Democrats" are actually Progressives in documented leadership positions in their towns.
A quick look at some of the names on the list certainly makes the whole thing look rather suspect. I noticed, for example, that Grace Gershuny is listed as a “Dem for Pollina.” But Gershuny is also listed as the Groton town chair for the Progressive Party at the party’s website. Oops.

Strange indeed. But, hell, in Burllington, we have Progs cavorting with Republicans.

We all know that life is complicated, but so is politics in Vermont!

Monday, March 10, 2008


As you can see Blazing Indiscretions has a new look and style, thanks to Owen.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Why we need random mandatory audits By Owen Mulligan

Many Vermont municipalities currently use machines designed by Diebold Election Systems, Inc. to count their paper ballots. But can these machines, known as optical-scanners, be completely trusted? Here’s how they work: each machine has a memory card which is like an electronic voting box where all the votes from the paper ballots are recorded and tabulated. Before each election, these memory cards must be programmed to reflect all the races with the candidates names, party affiliation, etc. This is done by a private company, LHS Associates, based in Massachusetts. On election day, these memory cards are inserted into the machines and then the machines ‘scan’ the paper ballots. This is certainly convenient for election officials and voters alike but it is important for Vermonters to know that these optical-scanners are by no means perfect.

On June 28, 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University (NYU) School of Law released a report by its Voting System Security Task Force on the security of electronic voting machines. The Task Force spent over a year analyzing three of the most popular voting machines, which included the Diebold AccuVote optical-scanners used in Vermont elections. The Task Force was composed of internationally renowned government, academic, and private-sector scientists, voting machine experts and security professionals.

The Task Force concluded that the optical-scan machines, even though they use paper ballots, are just as prone to errors and software attacks as the controversial Touch Screen Voting machines. The Task Force also stated in their report that, "Almost everything that a malicious attacker could attempt could also happen by accident."

It was a local election in 2006 when our neighbors over in Grafton, New Hampshire, who use the Diebold optical-scanners as well as LHS Associates for the memory card programming, experienced the Task Force's findings first hand. The state's Attorney General seized two vote tabulators after they malfunctioned during elections held on March 14. The incident was a faulty equation on a warrant article vote with 193 "yeas" and 198 "nays". But the vote total recorded by the machine was 369. Obviously, that did not add up.

It doesn't end there. Incidents with the Diebold optical-scanners have been reported in towns located in Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan, California, North Carolina and Arizona.

This may be why Diebold recently changed its name to Premier Election Solutions, Inc. after they failed to find a buyer for their elections division.

These incidences with Diebold’s optical-scanners are enough to make one wonder why Vermont has not experienced any malfunctions when almost every other state that uses optical-scanners has.

The reality is Vermont may have had incidences that either were not reported or were not discovered because rarely do our election officials do a manual hand count of the paper ballots. While Vermont did conduct a statewide audit and recount in recent elections with no abnormalities reported, it still does not change the fact about the vulnerabilities of these machines and what numerous independent studies have shown.

Because of these proven vulnerabilities, independent studies, including the Brennan Report, highly recommend random mandatory audits of all elections. Currently, there is no law requiring random mandatory audits in Vermont. Audits are at the sole discretion of the Secretary of State. A law requiring mandatory audits would certainly be in the best interest of democracy and would be a small price to pay to make absolutely sure every vote is accurately counted.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Oh! the non-substantive pettiness of the primary/caucus horse race (soon to be over). Consider: if the democratic process were functioning well, there'd be a fundamental alternative for voters.

With thanks to Liam Mac Uaid (via Another Green World), Prisoner of Starvation, and Five Before Chaos.


This morning I spoke with Haik Bedrosian, another Burlington blogger (BurlingtonPol). He airs "The Haik Bedrosian Radio Program" every Saturday morning from 10 to 11 A.M. on The Radiator 105.9 WOMM-LP FM Burlington. We had a friendly chat about last Tuesday's Burlington City Election Day results. We agreed Burlington's the happenin' place and his show adds to the diverse media mix of our Queen City! Y'all Go:listen on Saturday mornings!


BURLINGTONPOL Friday 7 March 2007 --
Obviously the best place to get information is the grocery store.

Per Kurt Wright today in the coffee aisle- When the voting ended at Hunt School in Ward 7 Tuesday, Incumbent first term councilor Paul Decelles (R) had apparently beaten Democratic challenger Steve McIntyre 971-958- a mere 13 votes

... But... according to veteran poll worker Leo Grennen there were 50 ballots that our beloved Diebold optical scan counting machines had kicked out as unreadable. Leo, along with Linda Deliduka and one other lady whose name I can't remember counted them- and told Kurt that Paul had picked up 36 votes as a result, making the new totals 1007 for Decelles, 972 for McIntyre

... But...Kurt says, nobody phoned the new result to channel 17 or John Briggs at the Burlington Free Press. Briggs reported the same results I did on election night (possibly because he gets his copy straight off BurlingtonPol) and when Kurt asked whoever it is who's filling in for Jo LaMarche now about the extra ballots, the person didn't know anything about it. Regardless, McIntyre has asked for a recount which the city council will perform Monday. All city councilors should plan on attending the meeting to help count. It sounds like the spread after the recount will be closer to 30 votes than 13.
So, questions persist about the use of Diebold optical scanners. There have been duly noted formidable problems with them (in New Hampshire, for example, also in a city councll race). And can someone tell me why our city councilors are being asked to do the recount? Would they be disinterested and neutral? Aren't the JPs in our city supposed to do that? Or should all the Burlington ward election officials be called to do this recount? After all, they are sworn to be neutral and fair.

We all know that Diebold is dearly beloved of the Vermont Secretary of State, but the fallibility of their use in Ward 7 may be their undoing. Let's hope there is no cover up and a truly accurate recount and investigation is underway!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Green Democratic Alliance and Citizens for a Waterfront Park's demolition ballot item #2 failed to pass on the ballot (UNOFFICIAL RESULTS Yes: 5314 No: 6188).

The Mayor's redevelopment plan which was #1 on the ballot passed (UNOFFICIAL RESULTS Yes: 7585 No: 4016). The Free Press calls it a "resounding" win for Kiss, but it ain't over yet: the city has to come up with the dosh to pay for it. The financials were sketchy on March 3rd and they're still that way. GDA and CWP members should be proud, however. If ballot item #2 had not been put on the ballot, discussion about the Kiss plan would never have taken place. We forced Kiss and CEDO to get off their lackadaisical asses and answer questions. But they just got desperate. If you saw the emails sent and lit pieces distributed by the so-called partners on redevelopment, you'd see they were doing anything to win: accusing GDA and CWP of being negative and stating misinformation. The Free Press with its Friday editorial didn't help; again the paper quoted the city in saying that demolition was over $6m.

GDA had endorsed Ward 7 Democratic candidate Steve McIntyre; he lost in an extremely close race against incumbent Paul Decelles (971-958).

Loyal Ploof may have lost to Clarence Davis (843-534), but his vote results send a message that there is an opposition and that the Progs can no longer take their hegemony in Ward 3 for granted.


David Berezniak won handily over Eric Hoekstra in the Ward 2 City Council race. UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: David: 552 Eric: 473) David opposed the Mayor's redevelopment plan and is a very vocal critic of CEDO. GDA donations to David's campaign and the volunteer effort played a key role in helping him win his election.

GDA Director and Democratic candidate Owen Mulligan won a place as Ward 6's Ward Clerk against Progressive Linda Ayer. UNOFFICIAL REULTS: Owen: 870? Linda: 570?

Also, GDA endorsed Ed Adrian was re-elected to city council with 76% of the votes (unofficial: 1,016 votes) against three other candidates.

Monday, March 3, 2008


A post in the Front Porch Forums --
By Dave Curtis, Lafountain St Wednesday, January 09, 2008 - 7:12 am
Do we all remember the planning and meetings that went on and on concerning the YMCA moving to the Moran Plant?

Do we all remember the public vote where the overwhelming majority said to tear it down and create open green space?

In the paper the other day was a flyer describing the proposal. Look carefully at the overview/map; it appears as though not one inch of green space has been created. However, there is a lake front parking lot with scenic pavement and probably beautiful painted lines. Actually there's a song about all that...

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
and a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

In the very recent past the voters resoundingly spoke. Burlington shouldn't be about parking lots. Granted no one is planning a "....Pink Hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot...." but we are planning on "...North America's first indoor ice climbing facility, a health & fitness center, cafe, bar & restaurant." I wonder whether the bar & restaurant will be pink next to the parking lot.

Once it is gone and converted into cafes, bars, restaurants, and assorted shabbiness the ability to have a park enjoyed by everyone will be lost. It seems to me that every one of the parts of the proposal are catering to visitors - how about us?

Please remember - we have voted on this already. Ask the obvious question - why aren't our city officials remembering that?

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Many letters appear in the Free Press today regarding the upcoming Moran Plant vote on Tuesday. One in particular shows concern about the further loss of natural beauty if the redevelopment plan is approved.
Have our city officials become so obsessed with the almighty dollar that they've lost all common sense? Can they not see the waterfront for what it is, one of our most precious natural resources? Do they not have the vision to see that the Moran plant has been and will continue to be blight on our waterfront, renovated or not? That what has always brought tourists to Vermont is its natural beauty and our waterfront offers a view that is priceless? That what makes a city really livable is preserving open, natural areas where citizens of all classes can mingle and enjoy something beautiful?

Surely, some of them have been to other cities that have homogenized, built-up waterfronts with the requisite rectangles of mowed lawn for green space. Nothing special there!

Mayor Kiss makes a big deal about the fact that other cities are renovating old industrial buildings. I can't help but wonder how many of them are situated on the most beautiful site in town?

I remember when the pavement and lawn on our waterfront were a wildflower field attracting migrating monarch butterflies and birds. What is so wrong about diligently searching for funds to destroy the Moran eyesore, building an attractive sailing center and perhaps farm market pavilion that do not block the view and are in harmony with the waterfront, and having a nature preserve tended lovingly by citizen volunteers?

No matter how energy-efficient the Ice Factor is, this use will increase traffic, carbon monoxide and wanton energy consumption. We're very fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. We should do everything in our power to restore and preserve it for the future.