Friday, October 31, 2008


Amazingly, on the weekend before the election, Vermont's premier newspaper, Burlington Free Press is playing catch-up on a story that's been around for quite a while. It has a front page story about Adrienne Kinne.
If a definitive history is ever written of the challenges to Americans’ civil liberties in the tumultuous aftermath of Sept. 11, Sharon resident Adrienne Kinne might well be one of the sources.

Kinne is more than a footnote in a new book on National Security Agency eavesdropping, and her allegations — widely reported over the past year — have prompted calls for a full investigation by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and ranking member Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

After she was called to active duty as a sergeant in the Army Reserve after Sept. 11, Kinne said in a recent phone interview, she was assigned to eavesdrop on satellite phone communications over a broad territorial expanse that included Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. The intercepts included calls to and from aid workers and journalists, among them Americans and citizens of U.S. allies. The intercepts began several months after Sept. 11 and continued through the invasion of Iraq until she was demobilized in August 2003, she said.
There are several comments in the Free Press denouncing her (showing a vitriolic, vomituous Vermont you rarely read about).

Ms Kinne has also been featured since last spring on Democracy Now!: look here, here, here, here and here.

I met Ms Kinne when we participated in a sit-in at Leahy's office in spring of 2007. She's also an active member with other Vermonters of Iraq Veterans against the War.


Thursday 30 October 2008

Barack Obama might be most Dutch people’s favourite to be the next American president, but they don’t know much about his policies, according to a poll in Thursday’s De Pers newspaper.

In total, 21,000 people took part in the survey, which was organised by tv show EenVandaag. The poll shows the Dutch think the Democratic candidate is more progressive than he really is, De Pers says.

For example, 78% think Obama is opposed to the death penalty, 62% think he supports gay marriage and 56% think he supports gun control. In fact, the paper says, Obama supports the death penalty and the right of individuals to own guns, and is against gay marriage [although he opposes an outright ban].

Some 75% of those polled support Obama as president.

Dutch politicians are also surprised where Obama stands on social issues, the paper said, particularly when it comes to gay marriage. ´He is against it?’ said Gerard Schouw, a senator for the gay-friendly party D66. ‘Okay, he is against gay marriage but not against gays,’ Schouw told the paper.

A survey conducted by Radio Netherlands earlier this week showed that 85% of Dutch expatriates and emigrants living in the US want Obama to win the race for the White House.

Three members of the young Socialists, in New York to campaign for Obama, told De Pers they describe themselves as ‘social democrats’. ‘ Socialists are something dirty here,’ said Astrid Benschop (18). ‘Sometimes they even run away, they are so shocked.’
The American stereotype about the Dutch is that they are progressive and tolerant, but that's not true if you follow current affairs in the Netherlands. But what's telling in this news report is how Obamamania has hit NL in much the same way that it has in the USA. Note how some liberals (a D66 senator, for example) in NL don't really know much about Obama's opinons. (The Dutch media are as much to blame as the American.) I daresay a lot of American voters who claim to be "progressive" have joined the Obama cult and don't really know what Barack Obama stands for or don't want to know.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Y'ALL COME to a sign waving experience in Burlington. Tomorrow. Symington volunteers are gonna do a wave
"Jim Douglas: Taxpayers are not your personal ATM"
7-9 AM


Only in America can someone who's arguably to the right of England's Tories be described as a "socialist."
Many thanks to Green Left Infoasis (always a good read I highly recommend) who got it from the Mahatma X Files.


A formal complaint has been filed. GREEN MOUNTAIN DAILY has the whole nine yards.


NYT Editorial

Loans? Did We Say We’d Do Loans?
In his column on Saturday, The Times’s Joe Nocera told about a conference call that he had listened in on recently between employees and executives of JPMorgan Chase. Asked how an infusion of $25 billion of bailout funds would change the bank’s lending policy, an executive said the money would be used to buy other banks.

“I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to use that $25 billion in that way,” the executive said. He added that the money could also be used as a backstop in case “recession turns into depression or what happens in the future.”

There was not a word about lending — not to businesses or home buyers or car buyers or students or other consumers. Just the opposite. In response to another question, the executive said that the bank expected to continue to tighten credit.


I can remember it as if it were yesterday. In the summer of 1966, I took my very first airplane trip on a BEA flight ($25 RT student fare!) from Hamburg to Berlin-Tempelhof. The flight was short, but wow! Not only was the landing amazing for me, but this visit was my first to Berlin, then a divided city - the Wall had been up only a few years. Today the last flight will depart from the world's first air passenger terminal. Tempelhof is closing.

From the International Herald Tribune:
A functioning airstrip since 1923, its monolithic limestone terminal building was built by forced labourers between 1936 and 1941 on the orders of Hitler's architect Albert Speer.

The airport became a powerful symbol of the Cold War when Soviet forces prevented supplies from getting into West Berlin in 1948. The West responded by airlifting more than 2 million tonnes of food and other goods into Tempelhof for nearly a year.
The photo above is a German postal stamp commemorating the Berlin airlift.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In Palm Beach County, Florida, there are problems in some of the county's high-speed optical-scan tabulation machines, made by Sequoia Voting Systems.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
With just a few days until the Nov. 4 general election, questions about the ballot counting machines' accuracy leave Palm Beach County vulnerable to legal challenges and could erode voter confidence, voter advocates say. One other Florida county and several others across the nation have reported similar problems — with accuracy, phantom votes and other issues — involving Sequoia Voting Systems machines.

The same machines that failed an Oct. 1 test to see whether they could sort ballots will be used to process absentee ballots and to tally results of a recount if one is needed.
There have also been problems in New York
Sequoia Voting Systems and Election Systems & Software – have been told to correct scores of problems in their devices and related materials. Sequoia, for instance, has 104 discrepancies in its source code and ES&S has 174 discrepancies in its documentation, according to the state board. Previous progress reports indicated that the board wasn't satisfied with SysTec, the firm doing the testing, either.

"The problem the vendors are having is New York state has a higher standard than they're accustomed to," says Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, a group that has pressed for rigorous vetting of electronic voting devices. New York is believed to be the only state to require that BMDs and scanners meet guidelines promulgated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in 2005. "What we're seeing is the vendors are not prepared to meet that standard." In fact, several vendors have pulled out of the competition in New York since 2006. One company that withdrew in July, Premier Election Solutions of Texas, cited the costs of complying with New York's testing regime as its reason for pulling out.



Governor Jim Douglas never showed at last night's gubernatorial debate sponsored by Vermont Interfaith Action.

Gaye Symington, Anthony Pollina and Peter Diamondstone did. The event at College Street Congregation Church was billed as a forum for the candidates to answer questions about affordable housing, the crisis in home-heating, environment and green jobs, and health care - all issues important to VIA's eleven member congregations in Chittenden and Washington Counties - and burning concerns for all Vermonters.

It should be noted that VIA originally rescheduled the forum from October 15 to last night to accommodate Douglas' busy schedule. Still, the governor bowed out. Fox 44 made that a big deal and called his absence "controversial."

But really controversial - and disgraceful - were the other no-shows (they were not at fault) - three bona fide candidates were never invited.

They are Sam Young, Cris Ericson, and Tony O'Connor.

As a VIA leader and one of the original organisers for this forum, I lobbied for and convinced the staff and other organisers to include Diamondstone in it. But VIA was unwilling to include all seven candidates for governor in this debate about social and economic justice issues important for all Vermonters. VIA likes to build relationships with the power structure, but apparently those powerful people are only in the three major Vermont parties. It also likes to grovel and kiss ass: it begged and cajoled the powerful governor to come last night, yet wouldn't stand for democratic values and include Young, Ericson and O'Connor.

Pollina initially annouced as the Progressive candidate, but changed his mind and decided to run as an independent.

Why didn't VIA include other independents, too?

One of the tenets of VIA is to transform ordinary people into engaged citizens. The three candidates who were not invited last night are involved citizens who care about Vermont and had been all over the state to gather signatures to be placed on the November ballot. VIA does good work; it was at the forefront in bringing attention to the Westlake debacle, saving the Gosse Court Armory, initiating efforts to build affordable housing for UVM employees. I didn't attend the debate; indeed I have disassociated myself from VIA. Not to have had all seven candidates goes against the ideals of democratic engagement and the citizen activism VIA stands for. I don't want to be connected to an such a hypocritical group. Democracy is too important to me.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Students at Amsterdam and Groningen universities are protesting against what they see as the erosion of modern language studies. Recent reorganisations at the literature departments mean modern languages are increasingly becoming part of broader study programmes.

The protest has the support of two well-known Dutch writers: Hella Haasse, who studied Scandinavian languages, and Arthur Japin who studied Dutch language. They have added their voice to a special website set up as part of a protest campaign launched last month by former Amsterdam University student Erik Schoonhoven and Jonathan Oudendijk who is currently studying Italian at the university.

They are protesting at what they see as a commercialisation of language studies... [more]
Read the Op-Ed piece (in Dutch) that Hella Haase, Erik Schoonhoven and Jonathan Oudendijk wrote for NRC Handelsblad on Erik's blog. Watch/listen to Erik explain their concerns here.

Join them to save the study of languages at universities: Red de Talen/Save the Languages (Dutch link.)


ONCE AGAIN, it's the City of Burlington/Kiss administration and the Parks Department versus citizens and an Old North End neighborhood.
"The Avant Garden," Standley wrote Thursday in an e-mail distributed to city officials and the news media, "is/was intended for a place for people to grow (food and themselves) and gather, not a place for the city to control and to use to make itself look community-oriented."
Two trees were cut down by the Parks Department personnel; the day before they were removed Ms Standley had been told they wouldn't be taken down. Councilor Tim Ashe, P-Ward 3 says it's just a communications gap. On whose part, Mr Ashe?

ONCE AGAIN, there's obfuscation and no accountability from the city officials.

Cross-posted at Local Action Works!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Money marries influence.


I saw two letters in today's (UK) Guardian. The first read,
I have primulas and chives flowering alongside roses, nicotiana and summer stocks, not to mention that the tomatoes are still going strong (Letters, passim). I'm planting a banana next spring.
And the second,
I was idly casting an eye over an estate agent's offerings this week when a smart young man emerged from the office to politely inquire if there was anything that took my interest. Now we know things are bad.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


LOCAL ACTIONS WORK! notes a letter today in the Burlington Free Press

Developers who live up to commitments

In the article about Burlington's Armory renovation ("Armory developer donates $100,000," Oct. 7), it was wonderful to read that Robert Miller, the project developer, has been so generous with his time and money.

Ironically, the story about his civic pride and charitable contribution reminded me of the Deslauriers/Westlake hotel and condos on Burlington's waterfront. In exchange for special treatment and permits for these high-end buildings, Westlake made promises to repay Burlington with affordable housing. Westlake managed to meet its commitment to the wealthy customers and pocket the sale price of these prime properties, but wasn't able to step up to the plate with payback for Burlington. Shame on the team from Westlake. And to Mr. Miller -- thank you very much. Maybe other people can learn from you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Robert Weitzel has a post up in Counterpunch on why he'll vote for Ralph Nader. But I saw this bit --
In 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act was intended to prevent the kind of banking shenanigans that have helped to plunge the world into worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. But legislation written by Republicans Phil Gramm and James Leach and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.
It's Gramm's bill that has helped get us into the mess we're in. Then I realised that's the same James Leach who very publicly endorsed Obama and spoke on his behalf at the Democratic National Convention. Just this past weekend lying warmonger Colin Powell said he'll vote for Obama. And today's story has neo-con Rumsfeld subordinate Kenneth Adelman's endorsement. So much for being endorsed by the "right people." I think stinks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Austrian far-Right leader Haider goes to his grave, taking secret of last hours in gay club with him


Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."

Many critics of investment banks have questioned why firms continue to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One source said: "That's a fair question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."

Friday, October 17, 2008


Updating from my post yesterday, AMERICAN NEWS PROJECT has this:
Today Jocelyn Voltaire will lose her home . . . unless bloggers and activists can intervene. On Wednesday, ANP reported on the economic plight of people in Hempstead, NY, the location of the third and final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. Jocelyn's story in particular inspired an outpouring of support on the web. Jocelyn fell victim to a predatory loan that ANP has traced back to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, made over $70 million last year. We will continue following this story.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Skepticism is indeed in order, especially about Barack Obama's "tap dancing" around the issues effecting lower income people. Have you noticed his spiel to attract the "middle class" voters in all of the debates? The Democratic Party has time and again betrayed the aspirations of ordinary people (forget Joe the plumber making $250,000) while pursuing an agenda favorable to Wall Street and U.S. imperial ambitions.

Watch this video and weep. (I had to unembed the video because it would start playing everytime you reloaded this page.)

(Thanks to Left I on the News for spotlighting this story.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander, chair of UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) is in South Africa to promote Global Handwashing Day. (It's today: As a Burlington Board of Health commissioner, let me remind you to wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating.)

It should be noted that a corporate sponsor for today's event is the Anglo-Dutch soap manufactuer, Unilever.

Warning: chemical contaminants in soaps.

And don't you think we should have enough clean water first to wash with?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Vt. accused of underreporting overseas ballots

The Associated Press
[Reported in the Burlington Free Press on 14 October 2008]

MONTPELIER — The state of Vermont is facing a federal lawsuit for allegedly failing to report the amount of absentee ballots sent to Vermonters overseas for the 2006 general election.

The U.S. Department of Justice complaint accuses Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, a Democrat, of not reporting ballots sent to Vermonters serving in the military and overseas and alleges that the state will likely fail to comply with the provision for the upcoming election.

The federal government wants the state to implement procedures to record data about the number of ballots requested and cast and report it within 90 days after the general election.

The lawsuit requests that Judge William Sessions III make a decision before the Nov. 4 general election.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


LarryE at Lotus has a good post up about the joys of train travel and congressional approval to up the funding for Amtrak
"When you fly, you see clouds. When you drive, you see pavement. When you take the train, you see scenery."
This summer I took the train from Port Kent, NY to Syracuse. I hopped the ferry from the King Street dock in Burlington to Port Kent and walked up a rather steep hill (200m) to the simple train station and took the Adirondack, traveling right next to Lake Champlain (I could have dived right into the lake!) to Schenectady. Laid over there a few hours and took the Lake Shore Limited to my destination. Perfectly delightful trip. I met a retired DC couple en route to Montreal ("We take the train everywhere," they told me); a Japanese student returning to her graduate studies at Baylor after a summer train holiday to major East coast cities; a young woman Gothamite meeting her sister from Buffalo mid-way in Rochester for a weekend get-away; an Amish family returning to their home in central New York.

While chatting with a few of the friendly Amtrak staff, I learned there is
a move to extend the Ethan Allen Express from Rutland to Burlington. I sure hope so, but the train tracks are used for freight or are quickly being replaced by bike and hiking paths along scenic routes of central Vermont.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


LOUIE CREW, founder of Integrity writes
It is long past the time that the church should abandon superstition about homosexuality and about lgbt persons.
1. credulity regarding the supernatural.
2. an irrational fear of the unknown or mysterious.
3. misdirected reverence.
4. a practice, opinion, or religion based on these tendencies.
5. a widely held but unjustified idea of the effects or nature of a thing.

Concise Oxford Dictionary, 8th Ed., Copyright 1991 Oxford Univ. Press
1) God is not sitting in heaven waiting to see whether Ernest and I kiss or hold hands, nor should reasonable persons shudder in fear of divine retribution if they allow the Church to respect us.

2) It is irrational to believe that Ernest and I have mysterious powers that can destroy heterosexual marriage. Evidence shows that heterosexuals are imaginative enough to do that quite well on their own.

3) The church misdirects its reverence when it treats heterosexuality or even marriage, as an icon. Jesus never married, but spiked the wedding punch as his first recorded miracle. Only one of his 12 disciples had a named spouse. St. Paul counseled against marriage except as lust control. For over 1,000 years the church allowed only the lowly laity to marry, but not the clergy. It is a stupid abuse of power to deny lgbts access to the sacrament of marriage and then condemn those who do not maintain lasting relationships.

4) In the last two decades forces within the Anglican Communion have required condemnation of homosexuality as a communion-breaking, gospel-defining issue. Even if one considers homosexual behavior a sin, Jesus was always compassionate about sins of the flesh, but not about sins of the spirit -- pride, hypocrisy, legalism, judgmentalism.....

5) Some believe that tolerance of homosexuality has been the cause of the fall of many civilizations. When a tornado hit a tiny Georgia town where we lived, an Anglican bishop snorted in the Birchite paper, "Would one expect God to keep silent when homosexuals are tolerated?" What utter nonsense! If, like Lot, you throw your daughters to marauders, don't blame lgbt persons.

Superstition, especially when Scripture seems to endorse it, is sometimes practiced by otherwise reasonable and skilled people. On the HoBD list several well credentialed and otherwise competent Christians routinely insult lgbt colleagues and condemn us believing that God makes them do it.

There is a fool-proof cure for anti-lgbt superstition: Love your lgbt neighbor as you love yourself.


Ann Pettifor, a political economist, writes in the Guardian about usury:
'And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

"And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." - Matthew 21:12-13.

Let us make no bones about it. This financial crisis is a major spiritual crisis. It is the crisis of a society that worships at the temples of consumption, and that has isolated and often abandoned millions of consumers now trapped on a treadmill of debt. It is the crisis of a society that values the capital gains of the rentier more highly than the rights of people to a home, or an education or health. It is the crisis of a society that idolises money above love, community, wellbeing and the sustainability of our planet. And it is a crisis, in my view, for faith organisations that have effectively colluded in this idolatry, by tolerating the sin of usury.

I define usury as the exalting of money values over human and environmental values; of creating money at no cost and lending at rates of interest intended to accumulate reserves of unearned income. Of reaping that which one did not sow.
Read all of it here.

Friday, October 10, 2008


After thoughtful consideration, Haik Bedrosian, the owner of BurlingtonPol blog, has decided to withdraw his candidacy for Burlington's Ward 7 city councilor race in the 2009 March city election.
Friday, October 10, 2008

I am withdrawing from the Ward Seven City Council race. After many conversations with my wife, and after serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for City Councilor from Ward Seven in the March 2009 election.

I am grateful for all the encouragement to run that I have received from Democrats, Republicans and Independents of the new north end, but this is not my time to run. Seeing to the needs of my children and my family are my priority. For now at least, a run for office would be diversion from that priority, and splitting my time between family and city government would not be of adequate service to either.
Haik adds that he will consider a run the following year and
I will keep spending a little time working on this blog, and on using it to cover the upcoming local races and the folks who actually do decide to run in them this cycle.
I completely understand Haik's reasoning - I know he is thoroughly devoted this his family - and I'm glad that he will continue be civically engaged by covering the candidates and the important issues facing Burlington in the months and year ahead. Thanks, Haik, we're grateful that you care so much.

Thursday, October 9, 2008



2008 Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader discusses the steps to becoming civically active. From University of Vermont in Burlington, October 5, 2008.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Ralph will be on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blizter at about 5 p.m. EST this afternoon.

And he'll be on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor with Bill O'Reilly [yeah, I know] at about 8:25 p.m. EST tonight.

Hope you get a chance to watch.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Ed Adrian and Andy Montroll have announced their candidacies as Democrats in the Burlington 2009 mayoral race. No doubt Repbublicans plan to run, too, against Bob Kiss.

Speaking of Mr Kiss, there's a recent letter in the BFP about his inattentiveness to constituent issues, over at the Local Action Works! blog. Regarding the slow handling of the waterfront director's 15-week suspension (still unresolved):
... Stowe resident Debbie Normand, who docks her 45-foot cruiser at the boathouse, complained that repeated calls to Mayor Kiss about this issue had gone unanswered. To the Normands, I would have them understand that Mayor Kiss does not respond to his constituents, let alone out-of-towners. Even friendly "hellos" on Church Street are met with stony silence. He does smile a lot when he's marching in parades, but otherwise he is generally unresponsive.

His lack of response could be snobbery, but if so he should take a lesson from Bernie, who always grunts a hello when he is greeted at Hannaford
I can relate to the answering of phone calls by the mayor. When I first read about the mayor's recruitning of citizens to serve on the environmental task force in the Free Press, I immediately called the mayor's office and left him a message about my desire to serve. After several days (nearly 2 weeks) I phoned again and many days after the second call, I received a phone message from Bob Kiss saying there were no places on the task force: all the spots had been filled. (I was invited to come to the meetings, however.)


A new citizen group is being organised in Burlington. LOCAL ACTION WORKS! It's less affiliated with political parties and has a broad, independent voice, which is a good thing in my book.

Monday, October 6, 2008


In California, Proposition 8 is on the ballot to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. This very cool advertisement is making the rounds now.

(HT to What's in Kelvin's Head)

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Episcopal Church to apologize for slavery

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will conduct the service at the church, founded in 1792 by Absalom Jones, a former slave and the first black Episcopal priest.

Jayne Oasin, staff officer for the New York-based Episcopal Church Center, said that the church can't deny its complicity in slavery even after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1808.

She noted that some historic Episcopal churches were built using slave labor and that members owned or profited from industries associated with it.

'Slavery went against God's law of equality and justice,' she said. 'This apology is made to the descendants [of those] who were wronged.'
This event was originally planned to take place in Washington's National Cathedral, but was moved to Philadelphia. I really think it should have been held in the Cathedral. Moving the event to St Thomas' in Philadelphia - a predominantly African-American parish, founded by Absolom Jones, the first black Episcopal priest - segregates it to become an event just for African Americans. Having it at the National Cathedral would call attention to the whole Episcopal Church's wider role in slavery.

How appropriate, however, that this event also happens on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen


Daily Reading for October 4 • Francis of Assisi, Friar, 1226
Francis’ famous embrace of the leper he met on the road was not merely a response to human suffering but, in medieval terms, an encounter with the excluded “other.” Lepers were not simply infected with a fearful disease. They symbolized the dark side of existence onto which medieval people projected a variety of fears, suspicions, and guilty sinfulness that must be excluded from the community of the spiritually pure. Lepers were outcasts banished from society. As his Earlier Rule enjoins, the brothers that Francis gathered around him “must rejoice when they live among people of little worth and who are looked down upon, among the poor and the powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside.”

Even the famous Canticle of Creation expresses more than a rather romantic love of the natural world. The underlying meaning is more complex. The key notion is that all our fellow creatures as brothers and sisters reflect to us the face of Christ. . . . Verses 10-11 celebrate the peace that comes from mutual pardon or reconciliation.

“Be praised, my Lord,
Through those who forgive for your love,
Through those who are weak,
In pain, in struggle,
Who endure with peace,
For you will make them Kings and Queens,
O Lord Most High.”

The created world is to be a “reconciled space” because of the fraternity of all things in Christ. There is no room for violence, contention, or rejection of the “other.”

From A Brief History of Spirituality by Philip Sheldrake (Blackwell Publishing, 2007).
(Via Episcopal Cafe)



The Dutch government on Friday re-negotiated last weekend’s bail-out of Fortis in order to buy all of Fortis’s Dutch operations for €16.8bn, including its Dutch insurance operations and the Dutch operations of ABN Amro.

The surprise move represents a break-up of Fortis along national lines and leaves the door open for ABN Amro, broken up last year in a €71bn acquisition by a Royal Bank of Scotland-led consortium, to be revived as an independent bank.

Friday, October 3, 2008


WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The plight of an Ohio woman who shot herself as deputies tried evict her from her foreclosed home was part of congressional debate on the $700 billion bailout.

Addie Polk, 90, was being treated at Akron General Medical Center after shooting herself Wednesday as deputies were at her door with eviction papers, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Friday during floor debate on the rescue plan for U.S. financial markets. Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) foreclosed Polk's home after acquiring the mortgage in 2007.

Kucinich used Polk's circumstances as he spoke against the rescue plan that eventually passed the U.S. House of Representatives 263-171.

"This bill does nothing for the Addie Polks of the world," Kucinich said. "This bill fails to address the fact that millions of homeowners who are facing foreclosure."

The bill, which passed the Senate Wednesday, "will take care of Wall Street," Kucinich said, "but democracy is going down here."

Robert Dillion, a neighbor, climbed a ladder to enter a second-story window in Polk's home after he and the deputies heard the noise from inside, CNN reported.

In 2004, Polk took out a 30-year mortgage for $45,620 with a Countrywide Home Loan office in Ohio, CNN said. Polk had missed payments on her home during the next few years. In 2007 the Federal National Mortgage Association (OTCPK:FDRNP), or Fannie Mae, assumed the mortgage and later filed for foreclosure.
The bailout is not going to work.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


INTERVIEW ON DEMOCRACY NOW! with George Farah, Exec Dir & Founder of OPEN DEBATES:

No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of all the 2008 debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates.


WallStreet and MainStreet: A lost play by Beckett [Originally posted by Gabriel on jews sans frontieres... many thanks!]

WallStreet" is a head of a man sunk up to his ears in banknotes. "MainStreet" is a double amputee walking on his elbows nearby. As the amputee passes by...

Mainstreet: I lost my legs, I lost my house, I lost my job, have mercy on an old soldier. Do you have a dime for an old soldier?

Wallstreet: Hey there, stop, give me 700 billion dollars or else...

M: What the fuck?

W: Give me 700 billion dollars or else...

M: Or else what, dickhead?

W: if you don't give me the money, I won't lend it to you back at interest. And you'll freeze to death.

M: You're fucking hallucinating. Look at me. If I had 700 billion dollars , I'd treat myself to something better than this, wouldn't I?

W: give me 700 billion dollars. That's your only hope.

M: Man you're so thick. I don't have any fucking 700 dimes for chrissake!

W: Oh crap! You're the people. Just make it up. What is money anyway? A note with a number scribbled on it.

M: Then why don't you make the money up?

W: Only the people can do it.

M: Ah?

W: Because you can impose taxes and force people to pay or else...

M: But you're forcing me to pay, what's the fucking difference?

W: I'm asking you to pay, or else you'll die freezing in the cold. That's all the difference in the world.

M: Well, fuck you! I'm giving you nothing.

W: Well of course it is up to you. But with the money I'll lend you, you could be buying yourself a burger or something, take a bath. Think about it.

M: Why can't I take the money I make up and just buy me a fucking burger without paying you a fucking interest?

W: Because you won't know how to allocate it correctly. You'll blow it, spend it on stupid things, bridges to nowhere, welfare checks for fake cripples that just wouldn't put an honest day's work, leeches, thieves.... Money takes smarts, economics, good models, correct structures of incentives, multipliers, tough investment decisions. You need professionals; you need entrepreneurs. People who understand money. People who have money and can be trusted to make the right decisions about money because it is their money.

M: But you just blew everything up?

W: If we can sometimes allocate capital badly, imagine what would have happened if people like you were in charge of it.

M: Do you mind if I take one dollar from this pile, buy me something to eat?

W: hands off you lazy bum! This is my hard earned money!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


MARTIN WISSE Credit crunch hits Holland
So far the effects of the American mortgage crisis and subsequent credit crunch seemed to have barely hit the Netherlands, but with this part nationalisation it seems we too are no longer immune to it. The big question is whether Fortis is just the first to fail, or whether like the UK or America, we'll see the whole financial sector collapse like a house of cards. There are other banks who, like Fortis, had to write off investments in the American mortgage markets this year and last, but none of these losses, including those of Fortis are big enough on their own to bring down any of the big banks. What made Fortis vulnerable was much simpler: a decision to get involved in a long and expensive hostile takeover at the exact moment that it became clear just how much of a disaster the US mortgage situation really was. This meant that Fortis had to find billions of euros it didn't have itself to pay for its share of ABN AMro at a time when nobody was willing or able to lend it to them as cashw as tied up in the every increasing death spiral of the US mortgages.
While it's fun to gloat about how quickly dyed in the wool capitalists are converted to "socialism" when it's their ass on the line, this isn't the kind of socialism that actually benefits the workers themselves. What's more, with the current plan the government doesn't even get a controlling stake in Fortis, so has little to show for its generous investment. And generous it certainly is to pump four billion euros into a doddering company when plans to provide e.g. daycare for everybody founder on millions rather than billions. It puts the lie to the oft heard argument that "we just can't afford" higher social benefits, or improved healthcare, or anything else that would actually improve the lives of ordinary people. Especially when you see how much money Fortis has wasted chasing after ABN Amro...


On 'Reforming' Capitalism

The palliatives with which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless: because they are but unorganized partial revolts against a vast wide-spreading grasping organization which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the condition of the people with an attack on a fresh side; new machines, new markets, wholesale emigration, the revival of grovelling superstition, preachments of thrift to lack-alls, of temperance to the wretched; such things as these will baffle at every turn all partial revolts against the monster we of the middle class have created for our own undoing . (Art and Socialism)

Those who think they can deal with our present system in this piecemeal way very much underrate the tremendous organization under which we live, and which appoints to each of us his place, and if we do not change to fit it, grinds us down until we do. Nothing but a tremendous force can deal with this force; it will not suffer itself to be dismembered, nor to lose anything which really is its essence without putting forth all its force in resistance; rather than lose anything which it considers of importance, it will pull the roof down upon its head. (WILLIAM MORRIS - 'Whigs, Democrats, and Socialists', in Signs of Change)


"There's a basic philosophy at work here, and it puts too much trust in large private interests over the public good," Symington said of the recent economic tailspin. "Unfortunately, this … world view is not just on display in Washington. Our own governor has in several important instances shown the same blindness to the danger of this philosophy."