Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Russia Today - Foiled Underwear Bomber is Intelligence Patsy

I always thought there was something fishy about this "incident" about the flight from A'dam to Detroit last week. Starting the New Year right....another staged provocation

From RT

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sweet Singing...

Merry Christmas! Best wishes to all for a joyous Christmastide!

J S Bach - Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 - Part I 'For the First Day of Christmas' - "Jauchzet, frohlocket" Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists

Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 1 to 20
The Birth of Jesus

About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David's hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David's family.

Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds

That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. But the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay."

Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:

"Praise God in heaven!

Peace on earth to everyone

who pleases God."

After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about." They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. Everyone listened and was surprised. But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.

As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Greenwald: "Cruise missile attacks in Yemen"

The Obama Administration deliberately chose to bomb with cruise missles an area in Yemen where civilians (including children) were present. That's a criminal action. Read Greenwald on how this story is being covered:
"Here we have yet another violent attack by the U.S. which -- even under the best-case scenario -- has killed more Muslim civilians than it did "Al Qaeda fighters," and failed to kill the main target of the attack. When it comes to undermining Al Qaeda -- both in Yemen and generally -- isn't it painfully obvious that the images of dead Muslim women and children which we constantly create -- and which we again just created in Yemen -- will fuel that movement better than anything else we can do?

"Consider what else is happening around the Muslim world that is quite consistent with all of that yet receiving virtually no attention in the West (though receiving plenty of attention there)."[...]

"Whatever else is true, and even if one believes it's justified to lob cruise missiles into more countries where we claim "suspected Al Qaeda sites" are located, one thing seems clear: all of the causes widely recognized as having led to 9/11 -- excessive American interference in the Muslim world, our alliance with their most oppressive leaders, our responsibility for Israel's military conflicts with its Muslim neighbors, and our own military attacks on Muslims -- seem stronger than ever. As we take more actions of this sort, we will create more Terrorists, which will in turn cause us to take more actions of this sort in a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle. The U.S. military, and the intelligence community, and its partners in the private contractor world will certainly remain busy, empowered, and well-funded in the extreme."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sneeuw in Amsterdam/Snow in Amsterdam

While our Northeast has been hit with a snow storm (mercifully for now, sparing Burlington), the Netherlands and the rest of Europe (Dutch) has been crippled by severe wintry weather. Especially transportation routes (train, highways, etc.). Amsterdammers seem to be taking it in stride as broadcast in this NOS video (A friend in Amsterdam sent me this link.):

PULSE: Obama World-Killer

Read the total essay about the just completed Copenhagen UN climate change conference - from PULSE, here's the beginning, to get your rage going.
Look at the strangely robotic body language. Obama’s “accord” is go-nowhere hot air and he knows it. Nowhere good–it’s a letter-of-intent for genocide. It must be unprecedented for a world leader to issue such a warrant so calmly, with such technocratic language–it’s such a brazen refusal of responsibility. 10 billion dollars a year in capital transfers for mitigation and adaptation is an insult to the global South, and to the world’s collective intelligence. As the courageous Lumumba quipped, “Ten billion will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins.” Perhaps they’ll economize on size. Children will die first. They’re more vulnerable to malaria and famine.

So to watch Obama jerkily rotating his head, repeating the words his speech-writers drafted for him perhaps 5 hours before the speech (it looks like he hadn’t even read it before delivering it), reminding the world that “our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now,” is infuriating. The notion of “collective action” suggests “collective responsibility.” But who is this collective? Why is “everyone” responsible? The global North’s climate debt—the dollar-amount of over-use of the atmospheric commons, both historical and projected given reasonable reductions in CO2 emissions—is 23 trillion dollars.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Congratulations, Annise Parker, Mayor-Elect of Houston

'“I promise to give to citizens an administration of honesty, integrity and transparency,” she said. “The only special interest will be the public. We are in this together. We rise or fall together.”' - Annise Parker
I lived in Houston for over 20 years and voted for Annise Parker when she ran for city council. She got her start in civic activism in Houston's Neartown, which includes Montrose - where I lived. She's now the first lesbian elected mayor of a major American city!

From the Houston Chronicle:
When Parker finally appeared at 10:30 p.m., resplendent in a gold pantsuit and pearl necklace, the room at the George R. Brown Convention Center jammed elbow-to-elbow with supporters erupted with a deafening cheer. Some were newcomers to political waters. Some had been with her a dozen years ago when she claimed her first City Council seat.

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history,” she said. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who thought we could never achieve high office. I know what it means. I understand, because I feel it, too. But now, from this moment, let us join as one community. We are united in one goal in making this city the city that it can be, should be, might be, will be.”

She was interviewed by NPR's Melissa Block:
BLOCK: You said on election night that you hope your election will change people's minds about Houston. What do you think needs to be changed in people's mind?

Ms. PARKER: A lot of Americans have an image of Houston as a, perhaps, stuffy, conservative, southern city. We are a huge, sophisticated, international city. We are one of the most diverse cities in America. And we clearly value people more on what they can do than who they are. I do believe that my election will cause people to give Houston a second look as a place where they might want to live and work.
Right on. Houston's come a long way indeed. I do look forward to the day when electing an lbgt person to higher office (in civic life or in religious institutions) will not be a big deal. But there's work still to be done!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fuck Xmas Commerce

Let's dance at Walmart! "Thank Yew!" (This guy is friggin' beautiful.)

H/T to Counterlight's Peculiars.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Keeping Alive those Ancient Uncouths

From Louie Crew, some eye-opening background history on the treatment of LBGTs. He does not excuse the Archbishop of Canterbury's silence vis-à-vis the proposed horrendous Ugandan anti-gay laws, but gives an historical context to the current situation in that country. We've come far and yet we keep alive those ancient uncouths.
Anglicans in Uganda are currently encouraging passage of a harsh new law that would institute the death penalty for some homosexual acts and would punish with severe prison sentences those who fail to report the homosexuality of those whom they counsel or even just know. The legislation will encourage the most vicious kinds of witch hunts. One Anglican priest in Uganda has likened lesbians and gays to "cockroaches." International human rights organizations are alarmed that this legislation may actually pass.

This violence has a long history, especially among the British and those whom the British have influenced.

The Napoleonic Code (1804) led to radical reform of almost all law in most of Europe. One of its effects was the decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts throughout most of Europe, EXCEPT in England.

That was no accident, and the Church of England was one of the main obstacles to reform of Britain's sodomy laws.

Britain continued to execute homosexuals for five more decades. England's last execution for sodomy occurred in 1857.

While the death penalty was still on the books, many visitors from the Continent wrote of their horror at the flagrant public pillorying of homosexuals in Britain. (See a brief account of the Vere Street Coterie --1810 -- at

The British obsession led Lord Byron to spend most of his adult life on the Continent. He and his homosexual friends called themselves "Methodists" as code for "homosexuals" in their private correspondence. (See extensive accounts in Louis Crompton's BYRON AND GREEK LOVE, University of California
Press, 1985; see also Crompton's HOMOSEXUALITY AND CIVILIZATION. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.)

Even after the death penalty was removed, the British fervor against gays continued little abated. Witness the conviction with jail and hard labor sentence for Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Wilde died only five years later, in 1900, a completely broken man, and it took more than six decades thereafter before Britain decriminalized consensual homosexuality (1967), almost a decade after decriminalizing heterosexual prostitution.

Britain's decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts would likely have been delayed further had not the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, supported the reform.

There is much lgbt blood on the hands of the Church of England. Uganda is merely keeping alive those ancient uncouths, with help from the silence of Rowan Williams. Rowan Williams is no Michael Ramsey.

In the early 1971 one of the bishops from Florida shocked the Episcopal House of Bishops by asking on the floor of the house how he was to handle a priest whom he had discovered to be "queer." His raw candor shocked the House, which immediately established the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry (1971-76) so that such discussions could go underground. (Only Episcopalians could have come up with such a prissy name as "the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry"!)

In October 1974 I took out ads for a new publication, INTEGRITY: GAY EPISCOPAL FORUM in THE EPISCOPALIAN, THE ADVOCATE, and THE LIVING CHURCH.

Immediately I received a letter from Bishop John Walker, a member of this Task Force, asking me to meet with the Task Force in Washington as soon as possible. We met at Epiphany in Washington, DC, and to that meeting I brought with me copies fresh off the Xerox, of the first issue of the FORUM, in which I called for chapters to be formed.

A priest named Tyndale and a layman named Wycliffe (who says the Holy Spirit does not have a sense of history?!), both from Chicago, but neither knowing the other, called me wanting to start a chapter. I put them in touch. Theymet in December and the following summer (1975) hosted the first national convention of Integrity at St. James Cathedral in Chicago.

In my papers stored in archives of the University of Michigan is a thick binder labeled "Episcopal Snide," a collection of hostile mail that I frequently received from bishops. Long ago I decided not to keep that collection near me. From the day I took out the ads, I understood that we all have much better news to tell to absolutely everybody. It is not ourselves whom we proclaim but Jesus as Lord and ourselves your servants for
Jesus' sake.
Louie Crew, professor emeritus of English at Rutgers University, is the founder of Integrity, and a longtime deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Newark.

Greenwald: "Major victory for ACORN and the Constitution"

"Yesterday, in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Federal District Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York found Congress' de-funding of ACORN unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement."
Glenn Greenwald is right to celebrate the light of justice shining in the dark. So, is Peter Welch hanging his head in shame? Wanna bet? Wanna bet Obama's DOJ will not appeal the decision?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Tuba Christmas

My friend Jay Kibby played in a tuba quartet performance of Christmas music on Don Weeks' WGY (Schenectady, NY) radio show this morning! His group is from the College of St Rose in Albany and is a chapter/member of the International Tuba Euphonium Association (ITEA). Enjoy the interview and velvet-smooth music here! They're performing at 7:30 P.M. at the College tonight (wish I could go!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

UPDATED: Oxymoronic News of the Day

"I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war."
War President Obama delivered his acceptance speech today just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize. And the audience in Norway nodded in agreement and applauded.

It's a positively Orwellian moment in the annals of history. He acknowledged the irony of receiving the prize, and yet he escalates the war in Afghanistan. Obama's just another slick Democratic pol, elected president, along with others since Wilson, as Dennis Perrin has written in his book, "Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War," who surrender to violence, imperialism, authoritarianism and the worst right-wing capitalism.


Amy Goodman today on DN!
'In a possible attempt to avoid questions about the Afghan war, the White House has canceled the traditional press conference held for the Nobel Peace Prize winners. In addition, the White House has canceled other events held every year, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a television interview, appearances at a children’s event promoting peace, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honor at the Nobel Peace Center."
No wonder, because Reuters also reports
"President Barack Obama said on Thursday there would be no "precipitous drawdown" of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and cautioned that U.S. troops could still be there for years to come".

Watch this! If you don't watch another video today, watch this:

Vermont Says No to War!

Protest Obama's Escalation
Saturday December 12th
12 Noon - 1:30 PM
Burlington City Hall Steps
Burlington, VT

With President Obama's announcement of a massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan, with upwards of 30,000 additional US troops to be deployed in early 2010, the anti-war movement is responding with a much-needed 'surge' of its own. There have been emergency protests in cities across the U.S. and, on Dec. 12, there will be a major action in Washington, D.C. against the escalation.

Join your friends and neighbors here in Vermont in Protesting the War in Afghanistan, this Saturday December 12th, on the steps of Burlington City Hall. Speak truth to power with the Peace and Justice Center, Vermont Labor Against the War, UVM Students Against War, UVM Students Stand Up, the International Socialist Organization, and many others at this critical moment in history.

*Please forward widely* *Invite your friends on Facebook*
If your organization would like to be an endorsing organization email: jonathan.c.leavitt (at) gmail (dot) com.

30% of all U.S. casualties in the 8-year war in Afghanistan have occurred during the 11 months of Obama's presidency. The cost of this war, with the new escalation, will be about $100 billion a year, or $2 billion every week, or more than $11 million every hour. Vermont just sent it's largest deployment of National Guard soldiers since WWII into the meatgrinder that is Afghanistan. The death count of innocent Afghanis is spiraling upward: according to the NY Times it rose 40% in 2008.

Hot Shit

As part of its coverage of the run up to the Copehhagen Climate Change gathering, Radio Netherlands reports
Nij Bosma Zathe is an experimental Dutch farm with 200 dairy cows. The manure these cows produce is used to make biogas. The gas is turned into electricity in a generator which feeds it into the national grid. The heat this releases goes directly to houses in the new estate in Techum.

The heat arrives, through a grate in the wall, in Carla Koelstra's home five kilometres away. "Just a push of the button and the house is warm," she says. Her children are surprised it doesn't smell: "They must use a lot of perfume on it."

As a result of the economic recession, not all the houses planned for this neighbourhood have been finished. Less than a hundred are now heated by means of biogas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Drink the Water

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

(Source: The New York Times)


Austin Citizens Do Battle with Fluoridation

Take a look at this video of citizens testifying before the Austin Environmental Board on December 2. We see both ordinary citizens and specialists, who have been shocked after reading up on the stupid practice of water fluoridation, speaking truth to power.

Celebrate Snow!

Today is Emile Waldteufel's birthday. Burlington has had its first real snow fall today, too. In celebration, here's Waldteufel's "Les Patineurs."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on Obama's Afghan War Escalation

Here is excellent policy critique by Phyllis Bennis of Obama's escalation of troops in Afghanistan. 30% of all U.S. casualties in the 8-year war in Afghanistan have occurred during the 11 months of Obama's presidency. The cost of this war, with the new escalation, will be about $100 billion a year, or $2 billion every week, or more than $11 million every hour. I encourage you to read the whole Bennis piece, but here's an excerpt:
'Less than two days after his escalation speech, Obama will host a jobs summit at the White House. Whatever his official message, the millions of unemployed in the U.S. know that 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan adds $30 billion this year to the already out-of-control war budget — and means that the only jobs available will be in the military. What clearer example could there be of the Afghanistan war as a war against poor people — those who die in Afghanistan and those left jobless and desperate here at home? A week later, Obama travels to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Not even the best speechwriters will be able to portray sending thousands of young women and men across the world to kill and die as evidence of the newest Nobel laureate’s commitment to global peace.

'And the day of the speech itself was World AIDS Day. The UNAIDS noted that all of its country goals — treatment for 6–7 million people, screening 70 million pregnant women, providing preventive services to 37 million people — could be accomplished with just $25 billion. That’s what the United States will spend fighting in Afghanistan in just three months. Timing matters.

'The result was a speech that reflected Obama’s centrist-in-chief effort to please all his constituencies. Some will be quite satisfied. Mainstream Republicans were delighted. They were careful not to praise too much, but as Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss noted, President Obama’s escalation was “the right analysis, the right decision.” General McChrystal, Obama’s handpicked top commander in Afghanistan, was quite satisfied: He had asked for 40,000 new troops, and got 30,000 U.S. troops and a promise (we’ll see…) of 5,000 more from NATO and other allies. More significantly, he and Bush hold-over Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got the president’s endorsement of a full-scale counterinsurgency plan.

'Mainstream Democrats were likely delighted — assertion of their party’s military credentials, with talk of a “transition to Afghan responsibility” to soothe their constituents’ outrage. They may be uneasy about the additional costs, but could take solace in Obama’s promise to “work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.” Just how anyone would “address” these spiraling billions remains unclear.

'The ones not happy — besides the young cadets in the audience, other soldiers facing new and endlessly renewed deployments, and their families — are the massive numbers of people who swept Obama into office on a mobilized tide of anti-war, anti-racist and anti-poverty commitments. Talk of beginning a “transition” 18 months down the line, with NO commitment for an actual troop withdrawal, isn't going to satisfy them.'
Protest Obama's Escalation Saturday December 12th Burlington, VT. Details to come.

Sunday Music: Benny Goodman "Body and Soul"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

't Is stil in Amsterdam - Ramses Shaffy RIP

Ramses Shaffy 1933-2009

There is no substitute for him. Never. He sang passionately, the Jacques Brel of the Netherlands. I guess I am showing my age. My cousins introduced me to his songs. Two stand out for me. Rust zacht, Ramses.

"'t Is stil in Amsterdam" -

and "We Zullen Doorgaan" --


"Together we can do more."

Today is World Aids Day. It is especially fitting to remember family, friends, and those people we might not even have known, who have died of HIV/Aids. On this day, I remember my first close friend who died of Aids, Chelsea Fretland Williams - in 1986, one year after his diagnosis. In those mid-80s years, before hospice, after several stays in hospitals, people would go home to die. The diagnosis then was indeed a death sentence (Now more testing is available and treatment advances make HIV more manageable.) Chelsea's family in Alabama disowned him, his brother and mother would not even see him when he was close to death. So it was his small group of friends who became his primary caregivers and parishioners at Palmer Church in Houston who sat with him as death neared and organised his memorial service at the church.

The full text of the Presiding Bishop's statement for World AIDS Day is available here. She writes,
In the United States, HIV/AIDS has lost much of its visibility in the past decade with many Americans growing complacent about the threat of the disease. It is not always immediately obvious who in our communities is suffering from HIV/AIDS, and the stigma of diagnosis further isolates and alienates those who need our love and support. As Christians, our ministry to those living with HIV/AIDS in our communities is more essential than ever. World AIDS Day is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the ways in which your congregation and community are welcoming and serving those living with the disease.

President Obama announced an enormously encouraging initiative, Act Against AIDS, earlier this year as a five-year, $45 million effort aimed at enhancing AIDS awareness within the United States. While the initial funding is small, this initiative is a much needed response to the diminishing public awareness of the AIDS crisis in our own communities.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has released his World Aids Day video. It highlights the plight of expectant mothers who are HIV positive and the support they need to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies:

Religious Dispatches reports here on the role churches are playing.

Today is a good day to get tested, as well. Vermonters can learn how by going to the site Get Tested Vermont.
Information is power.

Knowing your HIV status allows you to make important decisions about your health. People who know their status can get life-saving medical care and better protect their sexual partners and those they care about.

If you are negative learn how to stay that way.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Well, it's about time

Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has issued a statement condemning the pending Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws saying it would be a "terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority."

Anderson was responding to a Nov. 16 request that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Archbishop Henri Orombi of Uganda and she speak out against the legislation. Anderson is the first to issue a statement.

The Voice in the Wilderness

Malalai Joya on Dear Leader's impending escalation of troops in her country:
After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week's announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.
Read all of Ms Joya's plea here.

H/T to RickB at Ten Percent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food for Thought on this First Sunday of Advent

The Bush Administration called them "nutritional aid." On its front page today, the New York times reports at length on the growing number of people on food stamps and the stigma of relying on them for groceries has faded.

Episcopal Cafe, however, links to another story in the Houston Chronicle about a Houston attorney who wants to close The Beacon, a program sponsored by Christ Church Cathedral, which helps the homeless in the city center.

According to The Beacon's web site, the four-day-a-week service "[provides] hot meals, clothing, private shower and lavatory facilities, laundry services, and case management to people living on the streets of Houston," all in hopes of eventually getting people off the street.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Arthur's suit is based the simple fact that since The Beacon came on the scene, his business has been compromised.

“What started as a good and noble idea has instead grown and turned into a danger to the health and safety of others in the adjacent areas,” the suit states. “The individuals sing, play music, dance, fight and (do) other undesirable activities. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, when The Beacon's operation is closed, things are once again quiet and pleasant.”

Cathedral leadership remains clear-eyed.

“The Cathedral is engaged in the business of feeding the hungry and caring for the poor, as it has been for 170 years,” [Christ Church Cathedral Dean Joe] Reynolds said. “Any time you do that, there are going to be challenges involved. We try to address those challenges. We have a stake in being good neighbors in ways that are consistent with the mission we have as a Christian community.”


“This is nothing new... We don't want to go about it in a cavalier way, but the Christian community has been in the business of feeding the hungry for 2,000 years. We're not going to stop.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burlington: The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising...

As we enjoy warmish, almost sultry, November days in Burlington, it's getting too darn hot around City Hall. On Thursday evening, John Odum at GMD wrote about new, bitter, heated letter exchanges surrounding this continuing, messier saga of Burlington Telecom and Mayor Bob Kiss's administration. He ends with,
"It's amazing to read this while considering how different the whole situation would now be if Kiss and Leopold had simply had a tried-and-true "mistakes were made," mea culpa-ridden press conference and pledged to work with the council when this all broke in the first place."
"Mistakes were made" and "mea culpa" are not the same. The former is in the passive voice, the latter, in the active. "Tried and true"? Nah, there's a lack of responsibility and accountability which doesn't cut it. All politicians rely on it with crossed fingers - moving on and hoping that settles it. A cloudy murk has settled over the Kiss administration. I don't think this is what the city's Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency had in mind when it met a few years ago. Why is it so hard to say "I am sorry, and I pledge to do better"?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Houston LBGTs in Mourning

Sad news - two stories via the Houston Press.

The Houston Voice has been given the axe. The paper had been around since the mid 1970s, and I read it regularly when I lived in Montrose. Apparently the paper had been in trouble for quite some time.
The chain that publishes the Houston Voice and other gay-community papers nationwide -- including the venerable Washington Blade -- has gone kaput.

Gawker and other media are reporting that Window Media, the financially strapped company that owns more gay news titles than any other chain, has shut everything down.

The Houston Voice website now gives you an error message, and the phone "is no longer in service."

Oh Mary! The venerable Mary's Lounge at Westheimer and Montrose has closed! I could tell you stories!
Mary's, the bar that many people think of as the gay bar in Houston history, is no more, a victim of unpaid rent.

But there's a scramble going on to try to keep as much of the place as possible, as a way to preserve a cornerstone of Houston's gay past.

A Facebook page has been set up to encourage ways to get artifacts from the 40-year-old place.

"The old sign with Ronald Reagan smoking that hung in the bathroom?" writes one commenter. "The old 'Mary's' sign that hung outside the building on the patio? What about any of the artifacts stored in the back building? Or some of the items from the back patio, like the motorcycle and statue?"

Tim Brookover, an activist in the gay community, is urging the GLBT Community Center board to get active in saving whatever can be saved. "Mary's contains a number of objects and artifacts that are significant to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender heritage," he says. "Our ad hoc Mary's heritage group, spearheaded by the GLBT Community Center, is seeking to get access to Mary's and, we hope, permission to remove at least some of the items. At the very least, we hope to document what is left with photography."

If those walls could speak...
Photo of Mary's mural (now gone) by eatcorndie on Flickr.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Chemical Reaction at Main Street Landing, Burlington

A Chemical Reaction - Trailer from Brett Plymale on Vimeo.

The documentary, A Chemical Reaction, will be shown at the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, November 18, at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. An opening reception with the director and narrator will be held at 5:30. Tickets are $10 and available through the Flynn Box office (863-5966 or The film tells the story of how one person helped create one of the most extensive chemical bans in North America.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Study finds relationship between Community Water Fluoridation and Premature Births in Upstate NY

The New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation (NYSCOF) sent out a news release on a new study that links fluoride to premature births in New York. According to NYSCOF, "State University of New York (SUNY) researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities, according to a presentation made at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting on November 9, 2009 in Philadelphia."

According to the study by Hart et al.,
"... Domestic water fluoridation was associated with an increased risk of PTB [preterm birth] (9545 (6.34%) PTB among women exposed to domestic water fluoridation versus 25278 (5.52%) PTB among those unexposed, p <>10% poverty) and those of non-white racial origin. Domestic water fluoridation was independently associated with an increased risk of PTB in logistic regression, after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, neighborhood poverty level, hypertension, and diabetes..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Scared Shitless in Holland

Yesterday, using old "intelligence," police in The Hague raided a house they thought was full of illegal immigrants, but was actually a hostel for women and children. What's interesting is the perspective of two headlines for the same story.

24oranges: "Police traumatise women and children by mistake" "Police raid women's hostel by accident"

Welch calls for investigation of Blackwater

Although Peter Welch voted with Republican wackos in September to defund ACORN without the House calling for an investigation, it's nice to know he reads Jeremy Scahill.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Transformed: A soldier who became a man of peace

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world Into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today is the Feast of St Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397.
"The Feast of Martin, a soldier who fought bravely and faithfully in the service of an earthly sovereign, and then enlisted in the service of Christ, is also the day of the Armistice which marked the end of the First World War. On it we remember those who have risked or lost their lives in what they perceived as the pursuit of justice and peace."

Icon by the hand of Br. Leon Liddament, St. Seraphim's Studio, Walsingham, England. View more icons of St Martin here.
"In olden days in England, St. Martin was an extremely popular Saint, and his feast ushered in the great fast before Nativity. When St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Kent, he found in Canterbury a Christian church, ancient even then, dedicated to St. Martin. The location can still be seen in modern-day Canterbury."
See St Martin's Church, Canterbury, the oldest church in England still in use - here.

Collect for today:
Lord God of hosts, who clothed your servant Martin the soldier With the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Human Rights Activist Shadi Sadr Receives a 'Tulip'

Shadi Sadr (35) is an Iranian lawyer and human right activist. Together with 2003 Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, she is one of the most outspoken advocates for women's rights in Iran. She is the founder of Raahi, an organisation that provided legal advice to poor women until it was shut down by the regime, and she campaigned against stoning, a punishment mainly used against women.

The Dutch government has given her 2009 Human Rights Defenders Tulip for "her exceptional courage, perseverance and work in an environment of concern, where human rights are repeatedly violated," in the words of foreign minister Maxime Verhagen.
Sadr herself was arrested in July and detained for almost two weeks in the infamous Erin prison. She was interrogated not just about the protests by the opposition or her work for women's rights, "but about everything: conferences, contacts with foreigners, my whole life," she says in an interview with NRC Handelsblad.

"I was branded as one of the leaders of the women's department of the velvet revolution," Sadr says. (The Iranian authorities have accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the regime by means of a 'velvet revolution' at the instigation of foreign powers.)
It has been determined that prisoners have been tortured to death during interrogations. The opposition has also accused the authorities of rape

Sadr was not subjected to physical torture herself. "But at one point I was interrogated while in front of me more than a dozen young men were being mistreated. To me this was real torture. After half an hour I was numb. I was in a nightmare."

Her release was the result of internal and international pressure, she says. She was made to post the equivalent of 250,000 euros bail.

Sadr says she wants to go back to Iran, "but not to prison". For the moment she is living in Germany, where she has been given a 6-month scholarship for scientific research.

She is nevertheless "very optimistic" about the democratic future of her country. "It is a long process, and the costs will be high. But last week's demonstration has shown the government cannot afford to let down its guard for a minute. The security forces are being more aggressive than ever, and the opposition is braver than ever. There is fear, this is undeniable, and there is oppression, but people took to the streets regardless."

More Video of Abused Calves at Vermont Slaughter Plant

WARNING: Very graphic images:

This was at an organic farm in Grand Isle, Vermont skinning a still-living and squirming cow. USDA inspectors were present during the abuse. The Humane Society of the United States went undercover. FoxNews44 reports that the seven-week long investigation led to suspending operations at the Vermont slaughterhouse. The State of Vermont has not yet filed criminal charges - so please sign the petition for it to happen! There will be a Justice for the Calves Rally Saturday, Nov 14 in Montpelier, VT, in front the Statehouse, from 11 AM - 1 PM.

Best of Texas: Lyle Lovett

"Natural Forces," the new CD from Lyle Lovett is out. MadPriest has some more tracks from it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beatrix visits Mexico

Blauw Bloed has a summary of the just-completed State Visit of HM Queen Beatrix to our neighbour in the south - Mexico, broadcast on Dutch tv yesterday evening:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Houston: No more moderately priced rentals in Montrose?

From 1986 to 2000, I lived in Richmont Square apartment complex in the Montrose area of Houston, close to the University of St Thomas. The property is owned by the Menil Foundation - Dominque de Menil placed her fantastic art collection in the Menil Museum, on Sul Ross, just behind Richmont Square. Rice, University of Houston, St Thomas students and Texas Medical Center staff lived there amid amazingly tall live oaks. The site had been previously owned by an order of Roman Catholic nuns who stipulated that the trees not be cut down, when they sold the property.

Now the foundation plans to demolish the 495 unit complex to replace it with...who knows what. Good-bye reasonable rents in the near-town!?
... its board has already approved a master plan that would clear much of the area for galleries, sculptures and program-related buildings.

However, the details on exactly what would replace Richmont Square remain part of “a flexible plan” that will likely not be implemented for “five or 10 years, even longer,” according to Vance Muse, communications director for Menil.

“We now have to decide how to implement it, emphasizing careful growth,” Muse said.

In its current form, the approved master plan for the Menil-owned area, adjacent to Richmond Avenue, calls for dense residential use and commercial development.
Will the character of an already changing character of the Montrose be changed for ever?
“We’d like to keep it bohemian, if at all possible,” he said. “There has always been a commitment (by Menil) to offering a break.”

If not, Richmont Square would join the ranks of other large, moderately priced rental properties in the area that have been replaced in recent years by more expensive dwellings — or by nothing at all.

Related Posts on Richmont Square and the Menil:

Photo of Richmont Square parking lot courtesy River Oaks Examiner; photo of the Menil courtesy of the Menil Museum.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Local Vermont:"Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States" at UVM

The national art exhibit "Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States" will open at UVM’s Davis Center’s Fireside Lounge on November 9th and run through the 20th.
The exhibit, designed to offer insight into the lives of women who are incarcerated, raises questions about the equality and equity of the American justice system through race, class, gender and sexuality. The effects of incarceration on Vermont children and their families will be on display in the form of artwork, writings and photography produced by women incarcerated at the Northwest State Correctional facility in Swanton, Vt. A video created by teenagers telling the story of what it is like to have a parent in prison will also be shown.

81-year old Episcopal Priest Tasered by AF Base Police

One of the unofficial USAF mottoes is "No one comes close." Well they've certainly lived up to it.

Fairbanks (AK) Daily News-Miner
An 81-year-old man was Tasered during a traffic stop last week.

It is the second time since 1998 that police have had to make a show of force during a traffic stop to arrest Glen M. Wilcox, a Fairbanks-based Episcopalian priest and real estate agent.

Court documents allege that officers with Eielson Air Force Base’s 354th Security Forces Squadron pulled Wilcox over just after 1 p.m. Wednesday for going 11 miles over the speed limit on the Richardson Highway.

An officer, identified as a senior airman in court documents, took Wilcox’s license, registration and proof of insurance and wrote him a traffic citation. When he returned to Wilcox’s car, Wilcox refused to accept the documents and sped down the highway, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.

Wilcox disputes that version of events.
Undernews has more taser torture updates here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Consumer Reports Finds BPA in Nearly All Canned Food Samples

This is a very big deal.

In the wake of a new Consumer Reports study that found BPA in common, name-brand canned goods, The Breast Cancer Fund, Clean WaterAction, Clean New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Toxics Alliance and other environmental health advocates support Consumers Union's call for the FDA to immediately act to protect consumers from BPA. Read the full CU press release is here (and check out the link to the findings, listing the products to avoid!)

Here is an excerpt:
Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). The new findings show that BPA can be found in a diverse assortment of canned foods including those labeled “organic,” and even in some foods packaged in “BPA-free” cans. Consumer Reports’ tests of a few comparable products in alternative types of packaging showed lower levels of BPA in most, but not all cases. The results are reported in the December 2009 issue and are also available free online at “The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the extent of potential exposure,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy, at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies. The lack of any safety margin between the levels that cause harm in animals and those that people could potentially ingest from canned foods has been inadequately addressed by the FDA to date.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soon expected to announce the findings of its most recent reassessment of the safety of BPA. Consumers Union hopes it will remedy some of the deficiencies of its previous analysis. BPA has been linked to a wide array of health effects including reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Toxic BPA is a problem - it's used to line canned foods - even ORGANIC canned food - tomatoes, soups & more. It's linked to breast cancer & testicular cancer. Protect your health - return your risky canned goods to your grocer.

The CU Reports article in the December 2009 issue is here.

In September, I attended a conference in Burlington, VT, "A Critical Link," sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, where we heard from national leading experts in the field of environmental health talking about the effects of toxins on men, women and children. Along with other toxins that effect our health, the use of BPA was mentioned. CCTV Channel 17 in Burlington has on-line Part 1 and Part 2 of the conference. Highly recommended! If you are in Burlington, Channel 17 will also rebroadcast Part 1 at 2:00 PM and Part 2 at 3:41 PM on Sunday November 8.

Midnight Roadkill on 7D's Stuck in Vermont!

Midnight Roadkill received coverage prior to its premiere at the Vermont Horror Festival last weekend. As of this afternoon, MRK has had 254 views! Seven Day's Eva Sollberger was there on Friday and reported on it in today's Stuck in Vermont blog post on Blurt. She interviewed Owen Mulligan, the director extraordinaire of Midnight Roadkill, too.

About Last Night....

Here's Jon Stewart's brilliant take. He does a swell job at pointing up the shallowness of the MSM pundits pontificating for those who are too dumb.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 - Reindecision 2008 And Beyond
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Breaking: Maine has voted no to marriage equality

Conservative bigotry again shows its ugly ass. From the Boston Globe:

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine voters overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law yesterday, delivering a potentially crushing blow to gay-rights advocates after a year when their cause seemed to be gaining momentum with legislative and legal victories in four states.

As the ballot counting continued well past midnight, the margin continued to grow - with 52.7 percent of voters in favor of the repeal - and the Associated Press called the contest in favor of gay-marriage foes shortly before 1 a.m.

The “people’s veto’’ came six months after Maine’s law was approved, and one year after California voters rejected gay marriage by a similar margin.

“This is an amazing moment. It’s beyond words,’’ said Mary Conroy, spokeswoman for Yes on 1/Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization leading the fight against same-sex marriage in Maine. “I feel energized, overcome, overjoyed for the family and the people of Maine.

“Clearly, this tonight is the people of Maine speaking.’’

Gay marriage advocates, who gathered in a ballroom at a Portland hotel, spent much of the evening dancing and cheering, but grew more subdued as the hours passed and the votes favoring a repeal of the gay-marriage law pulled steadily ahead.

No on 1 campaign manager Jesse Connolly vowed to continue counting votes into this morning, but even he seemed to concede that they had lost this battle.

But voters approved marijuana dispensaries.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vote on Goldstone Report today

Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the sponsor of HR867, screams bloody murder against a report that has shown Israel committed atrocities against Palestinian civilians. Don't forget that the report also condemned Hamas's rocket attacks against Israel. Go here to see co-sponsors. They all know the truth, but not one gives a shit. Michael Ratner, writing yesterday at Mondoweiss, urges that Congress should first hear from Judge Goldstone and call him to testify before taking a vote,
This Resolution is a rush to judgment. It is a rush to judgment made on the basis of serious factual errors and mischaracterizations of the Goldstone Report. The Goldstone Report documents in a dispassionate and even-handed manner “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by all parties prior to, during, and after Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009.

Arar lawsuit dismissed

"I promised myself one thing, that I will continue my quest for justice as long as I have breath." -- Maher Arar talks in 2007 about his experience of extraordinary rendition.
From the Globe and Mail today: In the United States, judges have determined that Maher Arar's complaint of CIA "extraordinary rendition" is merely a potential case of "graymail" against Washington - the equivalent of blackmail against government agencies in the shades-of-grey intelligence world.

In dismissing the lawsuit known as "Arar v. Ashcroft" yesterday, a U.S. appellate court expressed fear that going forward could prompt dangerous disclosures of state secrets.
A vocal - and seemingly outraged - minority on the Second Circuit complained that their colleagues' disregard for Mr. Arar's rights smacked of "utter subservience" to presidential authority.

Lost in the talk of "graymail," they said, was the suffering of a torture victim. "A person - whom we must assume a) was totally innocent and b) was made to suffer excruciatingly and c) through the misguided deeds of individuals acting under color of federal law is effectively left without a U.S. remedy," dissenting judge Guido Calabresi wrote.

Always that fucking excuse of the powerful about state secrets privilege to avoid responsibility.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"For the saints of God are just folk like me, And I mean to be one too."

From a sermon for the Feast of All Saints preached by the Rev'd Jonathan Haggar (aka MadPriest), Rector of the Church of St Francis, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. This is an excerpt, but the whole sermon is worth the read.
Who we refer to as saints is down to us. Your are well within your rights to refer to the old lady who lives next door, who will agree to babysit your kids at a moments notice so that you can go out, a living saint. Why not? And the churches are free to choose who they want to, officially, call saints. The conferring of sainthood on earth is a human thing and is completely different to the sainthood that God bestows on God's people.

Now, of course, I would say this, but I think the Anglican churches have got the best system when it comes to choosing its saints. Our church always waits for fifty years after a prospective saint dies before it considers making that person a saint officially, unless a person dies a martyrs death, in which case they can be fast tracked through without having to wait half a century. In other words, we like to make sure nothing embarrassing is going to turn up, concerning a person's life before we start handing out the honours. But we do not insist that the candidate performs any miracles after leaving this mortal coil. In other words, sainthood in the Anglican churches is about what a person does on earth, while they are alive. And I think that is a very important thing to remember. Anglican sainthood is about flesh and blood, living human beings. That means that, ontologically speaking, a saint is no different to any of us. To put it into non-academic terms, they are made of the same stuff and they have the same potential to do good or to bad as all of us. And the flipside of that coin is that we are exactly the same in being and potential as those who end up having their names commemorated in our church calendar.

Friday, October 30, 2009

TRNN: Clock Ticking in Honduras

The Real News Network:-- For the past four months, ever since the military coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from power in Honduras, the oligarchy has been accused of purposefully delaying to make it to the scheduled election of November 29th. But now, with only one month to go, it looks likely that no more than a handful of countries will recognize the elections unless Zelaya is immediately returned to power. Al Giordano, who has been extensively covering Honduras since the coup for Narco News, shares his belief that the latest attempt to negotiate Zelaya's return will not work, and that there are some inside the coup resistance in Honduras that are hoping to take advantage of election day to do more than just boycott the vote.

On the Anglican Non-Response to the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009

"Anglican niceness and cowardice is at its worst when it remains silent when confronted with legislation which is in contravention of Anglican policy and will criminalise and dehumanize a group of people recognized as requiring equality in western society. When will Anglican leaders find the courage to denounce the Ugandan legislation?"
Indeed, we have heard neither from the PB or the ABC.

Shocking, appalling, worse: and so is the silence, especially when some Anglican Bishop Stanley Ntagali thinks locking gay people up for a period of time is a better alternative, apparently compassionate when the Churches are leading the campaigns against the existence of gay people, a man inspired by his national President congratulating Anglican bishops last August for their campaign against gay people.
Changing Attitude
You would have expected the Anglican Church in Uganda, those responsible for implementing Anglican Communion policy and those with supportive links to Uganda to have issued strong statements condemning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Lesbian and gay Ugandans now face the very real danger of being subjected to draconian legislation and more intense public vilification. Changing Attitude is in contact with a number of lesbian and gay Ugandan Anglicans who are terrified by the prospect.

On behalf of Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude, Giles Goddard joined me in writing to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Uganda and the bishops of Bristol, Sodor and Man and Winchester, the three English dioceses linked to Uganda. The letters have just been posted so no replies have yet been received.
Political Research Associates (PRA), a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements building a more just and inclusive democratic society, called on Rick Warren to denounce the proposed antigay law in Uganda.
[JayV edit: Link] In March 2008, U.S. evangelical leader Rick Warren told Ugandans that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, has just completed a report for PRA, to be released in mid-November, investigating the US right-wing evangelicals' outreach in Africa and related efforts to destabilize mainline Protestant denominations and their LGBT rights programs and policies in the United States.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Craig Murray: UK and USA sent prisoners to Uzbek to be tortured

Craig Murray is a British political activist, former ambassador to Uzbekistan and current Rector of the University of Dundee.

A night of horror!

Midnight Roadkill, a 4 minute horror short I helped produce, received good coverage today in the Burlington Free Press, in conjunction with the Vermont Horror Film Festival. MRK premieres at the festival tomorrow:

Friday, October 30, 2009 at 7:00pm - Midnight
Outer Space Cafe
208 Flynn Avenue
Burlington, VT
Midnight Roadkill will also have its Internet premiere on Dead-Fi's YouTube channel on Halloween!

Photo: courtesy Dead-Fi Productions.

"Yee Haw" it ain't

From The Texas Observer, a cool story about an up and coming talented Texas musician!
... The mixture of ancient Chinese symbols and modern American rock illustrate Yang’s uniqueness: he’s a rock guitarist and self-proclaimed Asian cowboy, a fan of barbeque, high school football and all things Texan, but also a lover of Mozart and Brahms, a violin virtuoso thriving in America’s most elite conservatory. While this rare blend of elements might seem contradictory, it’s actually the key to his exuberant personality. His versatility isn’t a shortcoming; it’s his chief attraction.

Yang’s exposure to classical music began in the womb—his mother played for the Austin Symphony—but his love for it was not congenital. “I hated it,” he says of his first few years. “I was 3-years-old when my mom shoved a violin in my hands, you know, it’s like the Asian rule, and I remember hating it and thinking, ‘Man, it doesn’t even sound good.’”

At his first recital, when he was 4, he turned and faced a corner while he played. “My ass was facing the audience the whole time,” Yang says. To get him to practice, his parents would bribe him with M&Ms. Even so, it was a struggle: “Past 30 minutes I’d always cry and shout, ‘Why do I have to do more?’”

HRH Princess Margriet to open Liberation Museum in Zeeland

The museum is in Nieuwdorp, where my grandfather taught school! Zeeland Blog has the announcement (Dutch) of the opening and an interesting linked YouTube video from "Cineac Oud Sabbinge," about what happened during Liberation around Oud Sabbinge, a few km from Wolphaartsdijk, where my uncle was the village doctor!

Princess Margriet will open the Liberation Museum of Zeeland (Dutch) tomorrow, Friday October 30.

The Battle of the Schelde is focus of the museum. This forgotten battle, which took place 65 years ago during the liberation of The Netherlands, between September and November 1944, had large parts of ths island of Walcheren inundated at the cost of a great many military and civilian casualties.

The battle was a key to the liberation of The Netherlands and the end of WWII.

The ambassadors of Canada, Great Britain, Norway and France, as well as veterans, will be in attendance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...

And the whackos still complain how far to the left Obama is.

The Democrats - as the War Party - have their priorities all fucked up. They don't want honest, real health reform because it's too expensive, and yet they approve the spending of billions on weapons and troops in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

How crazy and schizo this country is: Matthew Shepard's mother was present today as the president signed the $680 billion defence budget bill (including $170 billion for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan). A landmark hate crimes bill is a rider to it. LBGT groups hailed its passage, but they don't ask you or don't tell you to complain that it's tagged to a bill that will fund war crimes and killing. War is a fucking hate crime! Oich!

Last night in Texas, "the nation's busiest death penalty state"

Andre Bios, Iraqi War veteran and brother of Reginald Blanton, speaking on Tuesday morning with Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Democracy Now! -
Amy Goodman: Andre, you’re about to visit your brother. Are you going to be, if in fact he is executed, one of the witnesses to the execution?

Andre Bios: Yes, I am. It was one of the things that I did not want to do, but he has been requesting over and over again for me to be there ...

And the reason why I didn’t want to witness what was getting ready to happen to my brother is because it’s like a slap in my face from my own country, you know? His constitutional rights were violated, but yet I can go overseas and fight in another country to uphold peace, liberty, for them to have, but I can’t uphold peace, liberty and equality for my own brother.
Reginald Blanton was executed on Tuesday, Oct. 27th, injected with poisonous chemicals considered too cruel to use on dogs, and pronounced dead at 6:21pm.
On death row since 2001, Blanton was the 19th prisoner to be executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state. He was the third from Bexar County.

The family of Garza said in an interview about a week prior to the execution that they hoped it would bring them closure.

His attorneys filed two last-minute appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court and Blanton also requested a commutation of his sentence. All were denied.
Six more men in Texas have execution dates in 2009.

Cross posted at The Peace Tree.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Burlington's 'telecom tussle' goes national

Dave Gram/Associated Press:-

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A public option for phone, cable and Internet seemed like a good idea when this Vermont college town launched Burlington Telecom four years ago.

Now top city officials are under fire to explain a $17 million debt and whether taxpayer dollars are subsidizing an enterprise usually left to the private sector.

Burlington has touted its telecom system as one of fewer than three dozen "fiber-to-the-home" cable systems in the country, with gigantic capacity and superior speeds for Internet transmission. One of the hottest debates in its brief history came last year when Burlington Telecom decided to continue carrying the English-language version of the Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera.

The new telecom tussle has unfolded in recent weeks after city officials revealed that Burlington Telecom had borrowed $17 million from the city's "pooled cash" in the past two years but had not paid it back within the 60 days required under its state license.

The administration of Mayor Bob Kiss has come under attack by critics who say the mayor's office failed to keep the City Council adequately informed of Burlington Telecom's troubles and kept the public in the dark.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Via Vermont Interfaith Power & Light there are a number of events in our state for the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF CLIMATE ACTION: OCT. 24:

Many events will be happening across Vermont and the
world on this day of action which is sponsored by the
group The aim is to get the
attention of world leaders, to send a message to them
before their meetings in Copenhagen in December, to
convey the urgency of signing a strong climate agree-
ment. The level of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere
is almost 390 parts per million. Leading scientists say
350 ppm is the safe upper limit for life on Earth.

In Vermont, here are some of the events happening on
10/24. For contacts and more info, go to: Vermont Interfaith Power & Light.

BARRE/MONTPELIER: Bike ride to raise funds for the
bike path (for less car dependence) starting at 1 pm;
public officials will speak about bike path plans.

BRATTLEBORO: Centre Congregational Church will
show the film "Renewal" on Fri., Oct. 23, 7 - 9 pm, with
potluck snacks & desserts, readings and music at 6:30.

On 10/24, there's a march & rally from 11 am - 1 pm.

BURLINGTON: The “Dear World Project Walk” and “Human 350 Aerial Photo” will begin at 2 p.m., meeting at the UVM Davis Center west entrance (lakeside). The silent walk (with walkers distributing original art and information) to City Hall Park will be starting at 3 p.m. from the photo shoot, when the bells from UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel and Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery begin tolling 350 times (for 50 minutes). Some of the downtown churches will also be ringing their bells. Walkers please wear black (or something dark). To find out more about the walks, contact Cami Davis A prayer vigil will begin at City Hall Park at 3 p.m. People may send prayers, even if they can’t attend the vigil, to Betsy Hardy and may contact her to find out more about the vigil. A reception and speakers at the Firehouse Gallery will follow. Everyone: Set your phone alarms to 3:50 p.m. when we “wake up” to the climate crisis.

CHARLOTTE: Charlotte Congregational Church will have prayers, readings, music and bell-ringing from 3:30 – 4:30 pm. Contact: Bethany Myrick From 7 – 10 pm, Transition Town will sponsor a dance at the church.

GREENSBORO/HARDWICK: Tour of homes using renew-
able energy start at 8:45 am, ending at Green Mountain
Monastery, Greensboro, with a lunch of soup and bread.

Later, 350 minutes of local music starts at 3:50 pm at
Hazen Union School.

LINCOLN: At Metta Earth, there will be 350 minutes of meditation and walks in the garden, tea and food, from 10 – 3:50, ending with a group photo. Contact:

MANCHESTER: 350 people meditate on the town green
for 35 minutes.

MIDDLEBURY: Events will happen on the Middlebury Town Green, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. It begins with VISION 2020 – ideas for growing a sustainable future, followed by a 350 dish potluck at noon, collection of 350 non-perishable food items for the food shelf, 350 minutes of drumming and more. Contact:

NORTH POMFRET: Collection of 350 non-perishable
food Items by the Congregational Church, to be donated
to local food banks, and an evening program at 7 pm.

A tour of homes using renewable energy will begin at 8:45 am. The last stop on the tour will be the Green Mountain Monastery in Greensboro where a light lunch of soup and bread will be served (please bring your own cup, bowl, spoon). To register, contact Nancy Nottermann After the tour, 350 minutes of local music will begin at 3:50 pm at Hazen Union School.

RUTLAND: Sustainable Rutland’s members have been planning a number of actions including 350 minutes of prayer, a light bulb exchange – to give away 350 CFL bulbs, a 350 clothespin give-away to encourage air drying, 350 minutes of environmentally-themed videos showing at a Rutland coffee shop, and more. Contact:

SOUTH BURLINGTON: A dance party at Higher Ground will be simulcast to locations all over, with the music starting at about 9 pm. Two bands, Spiritual Rez and Barefoot Truth will play. For more information, go to: Kathryn Blume will be MC for the event. You can watch a video to find out more at:

Other events happening around the state on 10/24 include actions such as climbs of Mt. Abe, Camel’s Hump, and Snake Mt.; garden work parties in Putney and Burlington; climate action festivals in Waitsfield, Cavendish, and more. Go to to see a list of actions with names of contact people.


Faith communities in eleven+ Vermont towns plan
to ring bells on Oct. 24th to sound an alarm about the
climate crisis and the urgent need for action to avert
it -- to save God's creation. To date, we know that bells
will ring in Barre, Bennington, Bethel, Burlington,
Charlotte, Greensboro, Killington, Montpelier, Northfield,
Randolph and Tunbridge. We encourage more churches
to join in so bells will ring throughout the state. People of
faith are called to care for creation. Here's a way to alert
people to the need to step up and take this responsibility.

In Burlington at 3:50PM St. Paul’s Cathedral, First United Methodist, College St. Congregational, and First Congregational, and the Firehouse Gallery will all ring bells for several minutes.


People who want to participate in the prayer vigil in
Burlington on 10/24 but can't be there in person can
send prayers to VTIPL ( for inclusion.

Anyone may send a prayer and children's prayers are
especially welcome- on creation, animals, plants, climate,
landscape, people affected by the climate crisis, or any-
thing on this general theme. We invite houses of worship
to include this notice in their bulletins.