Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beaten But Not Stopped: Mohammed Omer

Paul de Rooij posted about on Mohammed Omer on PULSE. It is crucial that Mr Omer's story be read far and wide. If you have a blog or any social media type account, post this PULSE piece. Many thanks.

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London — an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine.

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.
The article can be read in its entirety here.

Breaking: You can fight the system...

From Seven Days Blurt

A Washington Superior Court judge has ordered the city of Barre not to enforce an ordinance that limits where sex offenders may live, WPTZ is reporting.

A preliminary injunction was issued this morning by Judge Helen Toor, which stopped the city from forcing a 29-year-old convicted sex offender from vacating his current residence. The offender, Chris Hagan (pictured, with wife Amy), was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with a 15 year old when he was 18.

Sally West Johnson profiled Hagan in the June 17 issue of Seven Days.
"No Easy Answers," a report published by Human Rights Watch in 2007, takes issue with the notion that imposing residency restrictions can prevent sex crimes. In fact, the authors argue, "among laws targeting sex offenders living in the community, residency restrictions may be the harshest as well as the most arbitrary. The laws can banish registrants from their already established homes, keep them from living with their families, and make entire towns off-limits to them, forcing them to live in isolated rural areas."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

VPR Programming Pushes Commercial Banking in Poor Communities

Last Saturday I heard a disgusting segment of Marketplace Money (produced by American Public Media) on "Vermont's NPR Station": Banking on the previously unbanked, praising the opening of commercial bank branches in the poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Just the kind of feel-good/do-gooder programming that would appeal to Vermont Public Radio's successful, smug, elite listener and donor base: we know better, so let's help the poor people who don't!

But the copy was was straight from the marketing departments of commercial banks. No matter what their public relations people will tell you, Bank of America and Wells Fargo (featured in the segment) are not caring institutions; they want to make a profit and will do anything to attract customers, even by using deceptive marketing in lower class neighborhoods.

A few telling quotes from the program: "He found that lots of banks simply don't think they can make money in these neighborhoods."

"But I think that often the banks find it very difficult to visualize a whole bunch of low-income consumers as being a vibrant market, but in fact they can be."

"The mayor's office says its goal is to add 10,000 people to the banking system and get them away from predatory lenders, like check-cashing storefronts, payday loan outfits and even liquor stores.."

"Predatory lenders" indeed! More like "Pot calling the kettle black."

There was neither a mention of small town, neighbourhood "community banks" nor of credit unions.

VPR should review its purchase of this kind of programming from American Public Media. But like most NPR affiliates, it won't. Its stations receive 31% of funding from local business underwriting and rely heavily on underwriting from Chittenden Bank. (Vermont's largest full-service bank - now owned by a Connecticut bank - bankrolled the establishment of VPR Classical.) In 2007, then VPR president Mark Vogelsang praised Chittenden in the bank's community newsletter, "With Chittenden’s help, we've created a resource for the community that connects neighbors across the state." To VPR, neighbors = bank customers, wealthy retirees and "summer" contributors. So naturally, this NPR affiliate continues to run programs that look positively on corporate bank scum like Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chittenden.

A recommendation: BI readers - of any economic class - in Vermont who want to keep their money in the state - away from corporate banks - should join Vermont Bank Users Strike.

Meditation: Pentecost IV

Today is the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

Today's Readings

The Collect
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A thought for today from Louie Crew:
I don’t know who wrote the collect for today, but I like to think it was Cranmer, author of so much of our Prayer Book, setting those in the pew to pray for unity even as he is supporting Henry VIII in his demands that all accept the king as the supreme head of the Church of England or else risk Cheney-like tortures, which have to their credit mainly their ability to get confessions whether or not there is anything to confess.

The Church of England in Diaspora faces much division right now, and well might we pray “to be joined together in unity of spirit.” Heaven help us if the price of unity is that we must sacrifice lgbts as scapegoats to those whose knowledge of lgbt committed relationships no more resembles them than does the heterosexual pornography that, uninvited, floods my spam-detector resemble heterosexual Christian marraige.

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
What is the Straight Eye for this text?

Even in a closet with the tightest isolation, many a gay Christian has experienced “Aha!” when reading it.

Are black parents pernicious or at least wrong headed when they give their children pictures of a black Jesus?

Are Europeans pernicious or at least wrong headed when they give their children pictures of a Jesus who looks Aryan with blue eyes?

A corollary “Aha!” for lesbian Christians, is Ruth’s pledge:
Entreat me not to leave thee, nor forsake from following after thee. For wither thou goest I shall go, and where thou lodgest, I shall lodge. Thy God shall be my God, and thy people, my people. Where thou diest shall I die, and there I shall be buried. Let naught but death separate thee from me. May God do so to me and more also if I keep not this promise.
Many couples choose to have this read at their weddings. Are they violating the context in which Ruth made her pledge to another woman? Are they wrong to see in this text a full commitment appropriate to marriage?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forty years after Stonewall

June, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the now legendary Stonewall Riots.
Democracy Now! devoted yesterday's program to it.

Counterlight's Peculiars, a blog I read regularly (it's on the side-bar), has devoted a series on Stonewall, well worth a read for the historical background: Here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Vermonters: Putting their faith in guns & ammo

Sure, we ain't friggin Idaho, but still....

From the Burlington Free Press today: "Soon after President Barack Obama was sworn into office, gun sales started booming across the country. Same goes for Vermont, so it seems.

"The number of firearm background checks requested increased 14.8 percent in the first five months of 2009 compared with last year, from 8,785 to 10,082, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

"Nationally, the number of checks requested over the same period increased 25.5 percent, from 4,824,603 to 6,053,899."

Speaking of misplaced faith-based intitiatives, there's this

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Double Standards: Two Quotes (Updated)

President Obama said (via NPR's ATC program): "I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering in Iran's affairs. But we also must bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. We deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place. [...]

[On Neda Agha Soltani and the video showing her killing:] "It's heartbreaking. It's — it's heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something fundamentally unjust about that."

And if the victims of violence had been Palestinians?

NPR's Morning Edition: Airstrikes believed to be carried out by U.S. predator drones have killed at least 45 militants in Pakistan and injured scores more. The reported death toll would make the attack the deadliest since the U.S. deployed its remotely guided missiles to target the Taliban leadership dug into Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan.

Details of the assault on the remote tribal area of South Waziristan known as Pakistan's badlands are still emerging. Local media report that dozens of militants were killed when three drone missiles were fired on Taliban fighters as they gathered for a funeral for fellow militants. Those fighters had been killed earlier in a separate drone attack. [...]

The United States would like the area as flushed of Taliban as possible in advance of a new deployment of American troops just over the border in Afghanistan later this year.

Would the NPR report have been less sanguine if those killed had been American, British, Dutch or Israelis?

Cross post at Antimedius and /2009/06/double-standards-two-quotes.html>The Peace Tree.

UPDATE: Excellent post on NPRCheck - highly recommended - about NPR's biased and incomplete reporting on the attack in Afghanistan.

AJE has a completely different headline - 'US drone' hits Pakistan funeral and and story on the drone attack; no where is the word militant used. Unlike the NPR story, it has this:

'Pakistan officially objects to strikes on its territory by the pilotless US aircraft.

'Questioned about the reported attacks, a US defence department official said: "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."'

Maybe I am wrong, but frequently NPR just cuts and pastes the DoD press release, without question.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The Old North End Farmers Market Grand Opening celebration is this Tuesday, June 23 from 3-6:30 in front of HO Wheeler School, 6 Archibald St. The Market will host 13 vendors this year, the largest market ever in the Old North End!

A great event for kids and adults! There will be live music, livestock petting area, games for kids, face painting, free ice cream from Ben and Jerry?s, and you can plant your own vegetable to take home! Come to the grand opening and you will receive a one dollar coupon for future markets. This year there will be produce vendors, prepared foods, crafts, baked goods, flowers, and more.

We accept Farm-to-Family Coupons and EBT/Debit cards. For more information contact S'ra at 324-3073, sra@riseup.net

Please spread the word and help support the local economy!

Happy Birthday, Alfred Kinsey

The House of LeMay remind us it's Alfred Kinsey's birthday.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ponder This

Vermont Progressives are just Democrats who eat "organic," read Seven Days and shop at City Market.

Burlington Progressives do all of the above, but have aligned themselves with the Republicans so much, they've lost their credibility with the citizens of Burlington as a party that cares about the people and environment.

Self-censorship by journalists

Former (fired) Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

Obama a very smooth liar

Very clear and concise, from The Providence Journal by John R. MacArthur on how Barack Obama cheated his way into office:

It isn't quite fair to call Barack Obama a liar. During the campaign he carefully avoided committing to much of anything important that he might have to take back later. For now, I won’t quibble with The St. Petersburg Times’s Obamameter, which so far has the president keeping 30 promises and breaking only six.

And yet, broadly speaking, Obama has been lying on a pretty impressive scale. You just have to get past his grandiloquent rhetoric — usually empty of substance — to get a handle on it. I offer a short, incomplete list, which I’m sure others could easily enlarge.

  • Obama portrayed himself as the peace candidate, or at least the anti-war candidate. He is not a peace president, nor is he stopping any wars. True, he promised military escalation in Afghanistan (to blunt John McCain’s accusations of wimpishness), but well-meaning folks believed their new hero would genuinely move to end the occupation of Iraq and seriously try to negotiate with the Taliban. Instead, he has not only increased the number of troops and attacks against the Afghan insurgency, he has also expanded on George Bush’s cross-border raids into Pakistan, which have killed many civilians. The way things are going, Pakistan could become the new Cambodia and Obama the new Nixon.

    In Iraq, Obama has promised to withdraw all the troops . . . unless, which means that we’re not leaving. Whether it’s 50,000 troops remaining at the “invitation” of the so-called government of Iraq, or just enough to man the 14 permanent military bases, or some combination of U.S. military personnel and private mercenaries that exceeds 50,000 soldiers, our army will almost certainly stay in Iraq past the stated deadline of Jan. 1, 2012.

  • Obama said he wanted to reform Washington and “fix” its “broken” system of corrupt lobbying. But Obama is neither a reformer nor a skilled legislative mechanic. Hatched from the Daley Machine in one-party Chicago, Obama wouldn’t be president today if he rocked boats. Witness the appointment of Roland Burris by the corrupt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama’s Senate seat: not a word of public protest from the new administration because Burris is a made man in the Chicago Democratic organization. So what if “Tombstone Roland” can be heard on the U.S. attorney’s wiretaps of Blagojevich, dancing around the delicate question of how to raise money for Blago without appearing to be buying his seat.

    As for pork-barrel politics, Obama named one of its greatest champions, Chicago’s own Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff, and the new budget (as well as the “stimulus” package) is loaded with pork. Meanwhile, have you heard anything serious about campaign-finance reform from Obama? Not very likely from someone who refused public financing and still has about $10 million left over from record receipts of $745.7 million. It’s just a detail, I know, but Obama’s naming of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn III as deputy secretary of defense seems to be at odds with the president’s alleged crusade against special interests and the “revolving door” between private business and government. He has also “sold” ambassadorships to campaign donors. The biggest plum, London, is slated for Lou Susman, a Chicagoan and former Citigroup executive who bundled $239,000. Paris has been reserved for Charles Rivkin, who raised about $500,000 for Obama.

  • Obama, with his Arabic middle name and his big Cairo speech, wants people to think that he is the Muslim world’s new best friend. Well, the photograph of a cheery Obama with Saudi King Abdullah and a smiling Emanuel with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, proves the contrary. The Saudi royal family hates the idea of representative government for ordinary Muslims and is cruelly indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians. A democratic, independent, partly secular Palestine could only make the Saudi oligarchy look bad. Thus, the House of Saud is perfectly happy with the status quo, and so, evidently, is Obama.

    Without Saudi pressure, there will be no resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Saudi oil is the only lever that would cause America to press Israel into making real concessions. Indeed, the president doesn’t mean for one minute to force Israel into anything more than symbolic withdrawals of its illegal settlements on the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Saudi elite continues to play its double game, paying protection money to extremist Islam and granting pensions to the relatives of suicide bombers. It’s just politics, say Barack and Rahm, grinning ear-to-ear with their sleazy new friends from Riyahd. Just keep the oil pumping around election time and all will be well.

  • Obama makes like he’s a friend of organized labor, at least he did during the Ohio primary when he needed to beat Hillary Clinton. At the time, he put out a flier headlined “Only Barack Obama fought NAFTA and other bad trade deals” and charged that “a little more than a year ago, Hillary Clinton thought NAFTA was a ‘boon’ to the economy.” In a debate with Clinton on Feb. 26, 2008, he said, “I will make sure that we renegotiate [NAFTA] in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about” and “use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage” to get “labor and environmental standards that are enforced.”

    But two months ago, U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk said such a blunt instrument was no longer necessary and that the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were now “of the mind that we should be looking for opportunities to strengthen [the North American Free Trade Agreement].” And, of course, there is no discussion at all about renegotiating Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, a “bad trade deal” that has done even greater harm to American workers and unions than has NAFTA.

Meanwhile, as I noted in my April 15 column, “Wall Street sharks circle the UAW,” Obama and his banker friend Steven Rattner are liquidating the United Auto Workers even as they liquidate the American auto industry. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s pseudo-secretary of labor, said as much. “The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bailout is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise,” he wrote last month in the Financial Times — no surprise, considering that Obama’s chief economic adviser remains Lawrence Summers, a champion of deregulation and “free-market” economics in the Clinton administration and very much the enemy of labor unions.

Yes, of course it’s nice to have a president who speaks in complete sentences. But that they’re coherent doesn’t make them honest.

Western media coverage of Iran

By As'ad Abukhalil, Angry Arab News Service, June 21, 2009

As I am still on the road (returning tomorrow night), I have not been able to comment on the developments as much as I have wanted. But I did manage to see some CNN coverage this morning at my hotel. What do you expect from a network that relies on Octavia Nasr as "the senior Middle East" expert for the network? But the hypocrisy is quite stunning. They are admiring the dare of the population when the Palestinian population shows more dare. They are outraged at the level of repressive crackdown by the regime when Israeli crackdowns on demonstrations are far more brutal and savage? They are admiring the participation of women in a national movement, when Palestinian women led the struggle from as far back as the 1930s (see the private papers of Akram Zu`aytir). They are outraged that the Iranian government is repressing media coverage, when the Israeli government is far more strict: when it was perpetrating slaughter in Gaza few months ago, the Western press was not allowed any freedom of movement except the hill of death where Michael Oren led reporters to watch Israeli brutal assualt on the Palestinian civilian population from a distance. The media coverage in the US and UK prove beyond a doubt that increasingly the Western press has been serving as a tool for the various Western government. If the government cheers, the media cheer, if the government condemns, the media condemns, etc. And would the Western media ever be as unrestrained in its glamorization and glorfication of demonstrators and demonstrations in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Jordan as they are now? There are no claims of even covering a story anymore: it is merely how can we best help the beautiful demonstrators who are not bearded and whose women are more loosely veiled. This is not to say that the Iranian regime is not repressive and needs to be overthrown: far from that. But it is to say that the Iranian regime is as bad (in fact Saudi Arabia and Egypt are probably worse) and as unjust as the various Middle East governments that are supported by the Western governments and Western media.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Disappeared/Los Desaparecidos

From Episcopal Cafe's Art Blog

"The word "disappeared" was redefined during the mid-20th Century in Latin America. "Disappeared" evolved into a noun used to identify people who were kidnapped, tortured and killed by their own governments in the latter decades of the twentieth century in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela. Colombia with its fifty-year civil war and Guatemala with its own thirty-seven-year civil war further expanded the meanings and uses of "disappeared."

"The exhibition contains work by more than fifteen contemporary artists from these countries, who over the course of the last thirty years have made art about the disappeared. These artists have lived through the horrors of the military dictatorships that rocked their countries in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. Some worked in the resistance; some had parents or siblings who were disappeared; others were forced into exile. The youngest were born into the aftermath of those dictatorships. And still others have lived in countries maimed by endless civil war.

"This traveling exhibition, curated by the North Dakota Museum of Art, will be exhibited jointly by the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, the Centennial Museum and the Union Gallery, all on the UTEP campus.

Luis Gonzáles Palma, (Guatemala, lives in Argentina)
1997 diptych, Empty Shirt.
One frame contains the frontal image of a Mayan woman,
the second, an empty white shirt
which stands in for the disappeared husband
Courtesy: North Dakota Musem of Art

"These artists have lived through the horrors of the military dictatorships that rocked their countries in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. Some worked in the resistance; some had parents or siblings who were disappeared; others were forced into exile. The youngest were born into the aftermath of those dictatorships. And still others live in countries maimed by endless civil war. Disappearance was inevitably linked to torture. Laurel Reuter, curator of the exhibition and director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, was struck by the timelessness and truthfulness of the art. For example, when Identidad, a collaborative installation made by thirteen Argentinean artists, opened in Buenos Aires, three people discovered their long-hidden identities. They had been taken at birth from those who opposed the government and adopted into military families. Through their art, these artists fight amnesia in their own countries as a stay against such atrocities happening again." Text courtesy of the original exhibition website at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

Current show curated by Laurel Reuter
June 18 - September 11, 2009
Rubin and L Galleries and Project Space
University of Texas at El Paso Dept. of Art
500 W. University, El Paso, Texas

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Veterans say NO to war and occupation

Thanks to Left I.

Health Care Alert: Horrors! Zombies!

This message brought to as a public service by FireDogLake.

How's He Doing?

Well, Ed Koch is recovering from surgery. The 84 year old former mayor of NYC has undergone surgery at New York Presbyterian Hosptial to replace a heart valve.

Koch suffered a heart attack in 1999. That's when he famously asked, "How'm I doing?"

Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978-1989, is expected to take a week to recover, followed by three weeks of rehab.

And soon, he'll continue to write movie reviews, too.

PETA asks Phish to change name in solidarity with seafood

We all know how PETA - in its misogynistic world - exploits women for its own ends. (Ironic for an organisation that claims to be against the exploitation of animals, right?) Now they've gone after Vermont's own -- Phish. From a story today in the Burlington Free Press:

“We were hoping that if Phish would become Sea Kitten, the band’s legions of fans would start using the word Sea Kitten to describe Phish, and fewer of these sea animals would be violently used for food,” Byrne said. “Hooking a fish through the mouth and dragging it out of the water is really the same as hooking a dog through the mouth and dragging him behind your car.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fucking Democrats II

I am not surprised. From Jeremy Scahill:

Obama-backed Bill to Ban Release of Bush-Era Torture Photos Passes Senate

Fucking Democrats

We are in for many more years of war and bloodshed, funded by US taxpayers and approved by a Democrat controlled White House and Congress.

I can't believe Leahy voted for the supplmental war bill.

Sanders didn't.

Welch didn't.

Dennis Perrin was right all along.

Fucking Democrats.

Happy Juneteenth!

From Texas Liberal

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the celebration to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, landing at Galveston, Texas, made the announcement that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, it took time for word to get around that slavery was over. People went around for two years not knowing they were free.

The knowledge you need for your freedom is out there. You just may not be aware.

It’s up to you to gain the knowledge you require about your history. I mean this for people of all colors because history is a shared thing. The fate of all people is connected.

Yeah, but how many trees died in vain?

On Thursday, Greenpeace handed out print copies of a spoof edition of the IHT ...

to press world leaders to agree on ambitious efforts to tackle climate change.

The eight-page mock-up included everything from an environmentally friendly Garfield comic strip to a horoscope (Sagittarius: 'There is a limit to what you can do with the resources available to you').

There was even a full-page, but fake BP advert bearing the slogan: "We changed our logo. We can change the world".

The paper was handed out in Brussels' European quarter shortly before EU leaders were to begin a two-day summit at which the environment is on the agenda.

In all some 50,000 copies were distributed free in the European capital as well as several cities in Asia, the United States and Mexico.

The edition was dated December 19, 2009, the day after a global climate conference will take place in Copenhagen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Open Letter to Bishop Henry Parsley from Two Named 'Louie Crew'

Bishop Parsley,

In 1911, when his son Erman was only six, the local Klan came in the dark to
the home of my grandfather and demanded:

"Louie, it is time for you to do your civic duty."

Louie stood them down while Erman watched from behind a window, frightened
by the torches and the hoods.

Then to Erman's amazemenet, Louie called out the name of every hooded man.
Erman thought his father had magical skills, not realizing that as president
of the local bank, his father had loaned the money used to buy most of the
buggies and horses of the vigilantes.

"John! Gary! James! Henry!......" Louie called to the panel before him; "you
know that you are up to no Christian good when you have to hide your face to
do it."


+Henry, Bishop of Alabama, Ernest and I still pay taxes on Louie's property
in Coosa County. You know that you are up to no Christian good when you have
to hide the identity of the special panel that you have appointed to study
us secretly.

Nor do you treat all parties equally. This week the MISSIONER, published by
Nashotah House, identified The Rev. Daniel Westberg, a professor at Nashotah
House, as a member of the secret panel and Dr. Ellen Charry, a professor at
Princeton Theological Seminary, as the panel's chair. (See page 3 of the
current issue)

The writer had sufficient knowledge to characterize the theologyical
position of each member of the secret panel.

Why does one of our most conservative seminaries have access to information
that you have denied to all who have requested it, including those of us who
share fiscal responsbility with you at General Convention?

End the duplicity. Take the hoods off all members of the committee. Let
there be transparency and decency.

I have been baptized.

Louie Crew, L1 Newark

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fill 'Er Up

My friend posted this on his Facebook profile: "The random things that drive by my workplace."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Royal Palace Amsterdam has been restored

It's certainly an improvement over how it was.

After undergoing extensive renovations and restoration (at a cost of 80 million euro), the palace is ready again for state banquets, the accommodation of (foreign) guests, official acts and... open to the general public. [Story: De Telegraaf (Dutch).]

Today HM The Queen and Princess Margriet opened the newly restored Royal Palace on Dam Square, Amsterdam. Here's a video.

The photo shows HM The Queen and Princess Margriet in the restored Throne Room (© ANP, photo: Marcel Antonisse).

The renovations brought back the French Empire Style, from the time when Louis Napolean Bonaparte was King of Holland. Senior restoration architect Krijn van den Ende: "The palace... will always symbolize the ultimate Seventeenth century classicism ánd the grand Empire style with which the history of the building as a royal palace started."

Restoration artisans have recovered antique furnitures, marble fireplaces and paintings. Several carpets and nearly a thousand historical pieces were refurbished and re-upholstered. (For my tastes, the carpets on the marble floors makes it too cosy Victorian, but I'll have to see for myself next visit to A'dam.)

In many rooms, the original chandeliers have been brought back. The kitchens were modernized for preparation of large dinners and banquets for more than 300 guests. (There are fifty toilets and a few dozen bathrooms added for guests and senior staff aparments.)

Preparations are being made to clean the exterior of the palace, the first time since it was built 350 years ago.

(Exterior photo of the Paleis op de Dam, credit Paleisamsterdam.nl.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Call Wilders what he is: a racist

This commenter calls Wilders' Party for Freedom racist. A shame we don't do the same with the party of Limbaugh, Fox News and Gingrich!


Published: 11 June 2009 13:11 | Changed: 12 June 2009 17:12

By René Danen

The foreign media routinely describe Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom as an "extreme-right" party. Yet the Dutch media, including NRC, seem to be deadly afraid of calling the PVV by its name, preferring to describe it as "populist" or "anti-Islam".

After Wilders released his [anti-Islam] film Fitna, for instance, the Dutch government was mostly worried about its effect on Dutch trade interests. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon went much further in denouncing Fitna. He said there was "there is no justification for the hate speech or incitement to violence" in the film and that taking legal action against the film was not a violation of the principle of freedom of speech.

Dutch politicians moved on as soon as the Fitna hype died down. Luckily, the Amsterdam appeals court later ordered Wilders to be prosecuted for "incitement to hatred and discrimination". There was good reason to do so if you look at some of Wilders' positions.

The PVV wants to close the borders to people who belong to one particular religion, and ban the houses of worship and schools for one population group. Wilders once told De Limburger newspaper that he wants to "tear down the mosques". He told HP/De Tijd newsweekly that "it is okay for the Netherlands to have Jewish and Christian school but not Islamic schools". In other words: pure discrimination.

Wilders has also said that his utopia is a Netherlands without immigrants, and that it is unacceptable that Dutch cities could one day have a majority of non-white people. He is also anti-democratic. He is the only member of his private party. PVV parliamentarians are not elected by the party but appointed by Wilders himself. The PVV meets behind closed doors in meetings where no one has the right to vote. So the main defining characteristics of an extreme-right party - nationalist, anti-democratic and racist - are all found in the PVV.

The party also likes to flirt with violence. Wilders has referred to his own parliamentary group as a "motley crew marching into parliament". He has said Moroccan football hooligans ought to be knee-capped, and that race riots are "not necessarily a bad thing".

When the racist Centre-Democrats entered the political arena in the eighties and nineties, Dutch public and political opinion united against it, and the party never won more than a couple of percentage points of the vote. After its leader, Hans Janmaat, was convicted for discrimination in 1996, the party disappeared from the parliament altogether. A similar tough approach to the PVV's discriminatory viewpoints - in the public debate as well in the courts - is called for now.

Yet, the opposite seems to be happening. Calling racism by its name has become the newest taboo in the Netherlands. At a time when everything is debatable in the Netherlands, and some politicians are even defending the right to give offence, still no one dares to call xenophobia by its name. It is almost as if racist politicians can only exist in other countries. We have no problem condemning [Belgian Vlaams Belang leader Filip] Dewinter or [French National Front leader Jean-Marie] Le Pen because of their views, but we seem determined to keep pretending that there is no xenophobia in the Netherlands.

Foreign research proves the opposite is true. Last March, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights said he was deeply worried about the "racist, anti-Semitic and other intolerant tendencies in the Netherlands, notably intolerance against Muslims." In an earlier report the council had expressed surprise that so few Dutch politicians were speaking out against the PVV's hatespeech. In the Netherlands, the Anne Frank Foundation researched the PVV and concluded that it was indeed an extreme-right party. A report by the association of Dutch municipalities said many towns have more problems with extreme-right youth than with Muslim extremism.

Still our own media and politicians continue to deny that the Netherlands has a racism problem. The most striking example was a statement by Rita Verdonk at the launch of her new nationalist party, Proud of the Netherlands: "We keep seeing these reports accusing us of discrimination. But Dutch people just don't do that!"

The left-wing liberal party D66 is the only party in the Dutch parliament to openly address Wilders' xenophobia. The Green party GroenLinks is reluctantly following suit. But the other mainstream parties should also step up to the plate, instead of leaving the fight against racism to the courts. They should speak out against racism - in parliament and in the streets.

Pretending that the PVV doesn't exist is clearly not working as a strategy - its recent success in the European elections is proof of that. Calling it what it is - a racist party - and firmly condemning its viewpoints will.

Vinalhaven, Maine rejects fluoride

By Shlomit Auciello
The Herald Gazette Reporter

VINALHAVEN (June 10): Vinalhaven voters on Tuesday filled two selectman positions, two school board posts and one post on the Vinalhaven Water District. All the positions are for three years.

... In addition to those elected positions, voters decided on fluoridation and the SAD 8 budget.

This was the second time in less than a year that VInalhaven has voted on the following question:

"Shall fluoride be added to the public water supply for the intended purpose of reducing tooth decay?"

At the November 2008 presidential balloting, the count was 423 in favor of the chemical additive and 320 against. Tuesday's vote reversed that decision by a 3 to 1 margin, with 99 votes for adding the treatment and 317 against.

Vinalhaven resident and mother of two Jessica Farrelly said Wednesday that a loophole in the law allowed her and other concerned citizens to petition the town to reconsider last year's fluoride vote.

Gathering more than 100 signatures, Farrelly's group returned the question to the ballot. She said her concerns were primarily financial.

"The question didn't explain the risks and costs," she said, adding that the specific language of the question was mandated by the state. Farrelly said the town's water system is in need of line replacements and other upgrades, and many of those voting in Vinalhaven live outside the water district. "They won't pay for it or drink it," she said.

In discussing health concerns raised during her research on the issue, Farrelly said individuals need to make their own decisions. She added that the chemical is used as a pesticide and can be found in many common foods...

Obama urged to investigate US sponsored torture

From The Lead

The Rev. Ed Bacon, Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA, met with members of the Obama administration at the White House yesterday along with a number of other religious leaders. They were taking part in the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) at the White House, and asked Obama consider sponsoring a fact-finding commission dedicated to investigating U.S.-sanctioned torture incidents that have happened since September 11, 2001.

Here is the text of the letter:

June 11, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As senior religious leaders in the United States , we write to give voice to the compelling need for a comprehensive investigation into U.S.-sponsored torture since 9/11. We believe the most credible way to conduct such an investigation is by establishing an independent, non-partisan Commission of Inquiry. Such a Commission is necessary to: (1) uncover the whole truth about U.S. torture policies and practices; (2) mobilize a national consensus, and (3) build support for the requisite safeguards to ensure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.

We know that you share with us the understanding that torture is wrong – without exception, that it is illegal and immoral. You have stated this unequivocally. You matched your words with action on the second full day of your Administration when you signed the executive order banning torture. With that order, you signaled to our nation, as well as to the world, your determination to return the United States to the rule of law and to begin the process of restoring our nation’s moral stature in the global community. We are profoundly grateful for your swift and decisive action in signing this executive order.

But an executive order is not enough. It can be superseded by laws, and, as we’ve seen, even laws are in jeopardy of being superseded by national emergencies. Our nation can guarantee the abolition of torture only if and when we put in place safeguards to prevent once and for all the future twisting and abrogation of the existing laws that prohibit torture.

You have publicly announced your opposition to a Commission of Inquiry, stating that our existing institutions are adequate for investigating what went wrong. You have expressed your desire to look forward, not backward. We agree we must look forward — forward to a future where torture will never happen again. But we believe that the only avenue to, and guarantee of, such a future is a Commission of Inquiry. An investigation of U.S.-sponsored torture will only be credible and thorough if conducted by a Commission comprised of citizens who are well-respected, non-partisan, and independent-minded.

The reality is that our nation is now shackled to a shameful history of torture. As people of faith we know that only the truth can set us free. We must therefore, as a nation, be mature and honest enough to examine fully and disclose completely the wrong doing that has been committed. The transparency and openness of a Commission of Inquiry will help to hold us all accountable for the policies and acts of torture carried out in our name. Accountability is essential in a nation of laws.

Recent polls show that many people of faith have been persuaded that the use of torture can be justified in some situations. These findings weigh heavily on us, as religious leaders. We have more work to do to educate our people. We accept our responsibility to bear bold and compelling witness to the sanctity of the divine image in all people and to the fact that torture in every instance defiles and desecrates this divine image. We commit ourselves anew to great faithfulness in preaching to and teaching our members.

We beseech you, in furtherance of your responsibility to restore, protect, and preserve the sanctity and rule of law in this nation, to commit yourself to the creation of a Commission of Inquiry that will uncover the truth, identify and establish legal safeguards, and guarantee for our children and grand-children a future in this country free of torture, without exceptions.

We pray for you “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2). And we look to you to lead our nation back to the path of truth and justice.

The letter was signed by at least 33 leaders representing many denominations and religious organizations representing a variety of religions and traditions, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The NRCAT press release says:

“We were pleased to have the opportunity today to meet with Obama administration officials to discuss our strong support for the establishment of an independent, non-partisan Commission of Inquiry to investigate the development and implementation of a program of torture by the United States in the years after 9/11,” Kilmer said. “Unfortunately, as is known publicly, President Obama does not currently support the establishment of an investigative Commission. However, the officials with whom we met heard our concerns and welcomed our input. This is not the end of this process; it is merely the beginning. As events continue to unfold, we will advocate for a Commission of Inquiry that can uncover all of the facts. We cannot simply bury our past for as the Bible says, ‘the truth shall make us free.’”

Read the rest here.

Well, we can certainly say Finland ain't Telletubbyland....

Celebrating diversity: one in a series of posters for the Green Party of Finland:

Anne Frank centre stage on 80th 'birthday'

Had she survived, Anne Frank would have celebrated her 80th birthday today.

From DutchNews.nl

Friday 12 June 2009

The diaries and other writing by Jewish teenager Anne Frank, who hid in a secret attic in Amsterdam for two years during World War II are to go on permanent display, the government announced on Thursday.

'Her diaries and writing will come home,' to the museum now housed in her former home, the statement said.

Three diaries, a note book of short stories and a collection of her favourite quotes will go on show from November 1.

The documents have been donated to the museum by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, which was given them by Anne's father Otto. He was the only one of the family to survive the concentration camps and died in 1980.

Short life

Anne would have turned 80 on Friday if she had survived the war and a number of events have been planned to mark the occasion. On Friday evening there will be a live tv broadcast from the Prinsengracht museum with guests from the Netherlands and abroad.

At Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, artist Silvester Peperkamp is painting a portrait of how Anne may have looked if she was alive today.

Meanwhile, the shed at Westerbork transit camp, where Anne was put to work dismantling batteries after her capture in 1944, is to be rebuilt on its original location.

The shed has been used for agricultural storage in Veendam since 1957.

For a list of international events click here

[Cross posted at Andemedius and The Peace Tree.]

A Native American thanksgiving

This is lovely - from Speaking to the Soul.

Daily Reading for June 12 • Enmegahbowh, Priest and Missionary, 1902

Leader: For our ancestors who built nations and cultures; who thrived and prospered long before the coming of strangers; for the forfeit of their lives, their homes, their lands, and their freedoms sacrificed to the rise of new nations and new worlds.
All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: For the wealth of our lands; for minerals in the earth; for the plants and waters and animals on the earth; for the birds, the clouds and rain; for the sun and moon in the sky and the gifts they gave to our people that enabled the rise of new world economics. All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: For oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, and other waters of our lands that provide bountifully for us; for clams, lobsters, salmon, trout, shrimp, and abalone; for the pathways the waters have provided.
All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: For the friendship that first welcomed all to our shores; for the courage of those who watched their worlds change and disappear and for those who led in the search for new lives; for our leaders today who fight with courage and great heart for us.
All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: For the strength and beauty of our diverse Native cultures; for the traditions that give structure to our lives, that define who we are; for the skills of our artists and craftspeople and the gifts of their hands.
All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: For the spirituality and vision that gave our people the courage and faith to endure; that brought many to an understanding and acceptance of the love of Christ, our Brother and Savior.
All: We offer a song of honor and thanks.

Leader: Accept, O God, Creator, our honor song, and make our hearts thankful for what we have been given. Make us humble for what we have taken. Make us glad as we return some measure of what we have been given. Strengthen our faith and make us strong in the service of our people, in the name of our Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ, your Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From “A Native American Thanksgiving for the Americas and Their People” offered at the National Cathedral in 1992 and quoted in The Wideness of God’s Mercy: Litanies to Enlarge Our Prayer, revised and updated edition, compiled and adapted by Jeffery Rowthorn with W. Alfred Tisdale. Copyright © 2007. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Behind the screen

By Katie Sherrod in Desert's Child

During the 1890’s Dr. M. Carey Thomas, later president of Bryn Mawr College, asked to attend a class at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine in Baltimore. No woman had ever before been permitted to attend the lectures, and Dr. Thomas was granted her request only on condition that she sit behind a screen so as not to offend and distract the male students.

In 1893, Florence Bascom was the first woman to to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins. However, she too had to sit behind a screen so the male students would not know she was there and be offended or distracted.

British-born Charlotte Angas Scott (1858-1931) was pivotal in the development of mathematics education in the United States. She was among the first faculty members at Bryn Mawr College and the school's first head mathematics teacher. Scott was awarded a scholarship to Hitchin College (now Girton College, the women's division of Cambridge University). She and the other women in her class were all required to sit behind a screen that separated them from the male students and obscured their view of the blackboard. Women also were not permitted to be at the commencement exercises.

But that was all so long ago. Right? Well, requiring women students to sit behind a screen or even out in a hallway at schools, universities and seminaries continued in some schools in the U.S. right up until the early to mid part of the last century. The people in charge did not want the male students to be offended or distracted.

African Americans endured even worse indignities as white America enacted laws designed to keep them "in their place" so they could not offend the sensibilities of white people. That's what segregation and then the Jim Crow laws were all about.

Even recognized heroes were not immune to the insults. In 1971, after a 40-year career in baseball, Leroy “Satchel” Paige became the first Negro League Player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But Baseball Commissioner, Bowie Kuhn announced that Paige would be the first member of a Negro wing of the Hall of Fame. Sports writers exploded, saying that having a "Negro wing" was perpetuating the bad old separate-and-NOT-equal days of segregation. Outrage grew, and Kuhn finally convinced the board of the Hall of Fame that putting Paige in a separate corridor was a really bad idea. So Paige's plaque and those of other "Negro" players were put with all the rest.

It seems that any time those on the margins seek to be included, those in charge have moved to include them only after making sure the sensibilities of people like themselves [historically straight white men] are not offended.

That is what is happening in the Episcopal Church right now with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in Christ. After years of steady pressure, the church is slowly making moves to include them, but only if they will in essence sit behind a screen so as not to offend any of the people already inside the room.

That's why Gene Robinson was not invited to Lambeth, although the Archbishop of Canterbury did offer to let him speak in an exhibit hall of the Marketplace . . .

That is what B033 was and is all about -- making sure that the presence of LGBT Episcopalians in our church won't offend anyone anywhere who is made the slightest bit uncomfortable by their presence.

And that is why the closeted panel that is studying same sex relationships wants to keep itself secret "for a season." We apparently even have to study LGBT folk from behind a screen.

Someday our children will read of this time in our history and be just as amazed and outraged as you were when you read the first paragraph of this blog.

I hope some of those children will still be in the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Golden Girls on Marriage Equality

Eyewitnesses to the wreckage of Gaza

Two video reports--

Via Media Lens Message Board

Phil Weiss was part of a recent CodePink delegaton to Gaza. He filmed this video of a tour through the industrial zone east of Gaza. The extent of the destruction is incredible, and Israel continues to refuse to permit materials needed for reconstruction to enter the Strip.

Via Guardian Films

Nearly six months since the devastating war in Gaza, Palestinians are still living amid the rubble. Despite stirring talk of reconstruction efforts, little has changed. Inigo Gilmore visits the devastated neighbourhoods to see how families are coping.

Midweek: Dance!

Eyewitness to the wreckage of Iraq

With all the media outlets talking about US domestic concerns (health care, the economy, the war on drugs, the SCOTUS nomination), let's not forget there is still the tragedy of Iraq:

Eyewitness to the wreckage of Iraq

By Sabah Jawad Socialist Worker, June 9, 2009

When you step out on the streets of Baghdad you notice immediately that all is not right in Iraq.

Thousands of concrete barricades divide city neighbourhoods into small cantons.

Everywhere are reminders that this is a country under occupation. It is a bleak vision of this ancient city.

This pattern repeats itself at a smaller scale too. Even in local areas roads are blocked by concrete barriers.

Everywhere there are checkpoints manned by the Iraqi security forces.

They are set up at will and prevent people from moving around freely. There are constant traffic jams and no traffic lights.

After six years of occupation there is still a huge shortage of drinking water.

Electricity is often off for more than 12 hours a day—which is unbearable in the heat of the summer.

Baghdad is in a worse state than during my last visit in October 2003.

The dust that covers the city is an indication of a huge environmental disaster taking place.

Contamination and falling levels of water in Iraq’s two major rivers are turning huge swathes of agricultural land into a desert.

The country was once capable of feeding its people. But now Iraqi fruit and vegetables have disappeared from the markets.

The situation is even worse in southern cities like Basra, which was once a beautiful place.

Its famous network of streams and small rivers are now open sewers. The stench hits you as soon as you enter this great city.

This not the image that the US paints of Iraq.

The occupiers claim that reconstruction is taking place, and that they have created a democratic state with a system based on consensus and power-sharing.

But the US has created a weak and fragmented state, and they want it to stay that way so it is easy to control.

The political process is based on religious sectarianism and division. The constitution is a minefield that is turning region against region.

Ministries are divided on sectarian lines and there is massive nepotism and embezzlement of public funds.

The occupiers have squandered huge amounts of public funds.

The only “achievement” of the occupation is the widespread corruption that is eating away at the Iraqi state.

The former electricity minister Ayham al-Samarrai was accused of embezzling $100 million in a scam involving the import of electricity generators.

He was sentenced by an Iraqi court, but was spirited away from the security of the occupiers’ Green Zone in Baghdad to a new life in the US.

Another notable scandal involved Hazim Shalan, a former defence minister. He was accused of importing non-existent or faulty weapons.

The most recent case involves trade minister Falah al‑Sudani, who resigned last week after being accused of corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

His two brothers are also implicated. They stand accused of fiddling import licences for the rationing system which millions of Iraqis depend on for food.

Occupation forces and Iraqi political parties took control of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. They divided up the spoils like thieves, and took buildings that belong to the people.

The Al-Fadhila Party took over the huge unfinished Al‑Rahman mosque in Baghdad. It sold off materials bought for the Mosque’s construction to fill its own pockets.

Many people believe that these corrupt and sectarian institutions were created by the US with the aim of keeping Iraq fragmented and weak.
Sabah Jawad is an officer of the Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation

Cross posted at Antemedius.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Royal Dutch/Shell settles on $15.5 millon on Saro Wiwa case

From Democracy Now!

The case was brought on behalf of ten plaintiffs who accused Shell of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others.

Of course, Royal Dutch/Shell didn't admit guilt, but the case against them was pretty strong, so they offer a settlement rather than go along with a trial. Anyway, the settlement is simply the cost of doing business for Shell. Does it mean that it will make Shell change any future policies? Even with their PR concerns for the Ogoni people, I seriously doubt it. Shell is a business that puts profits before people, no matter what their PR departments will do to "sell" us. The settlement is the beginning of the process of reconciliation, not the end, as the DN! interviews point out.

Radio Netherlands reports also that Shell faces another court battle.

Another lawsuit was filed last year on behalf of Nigerian plaintiffs by Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The case concerns three specific oil spills that cost several families their livelihoods.

Millions of people in the Niger Delta live in poverty despite the region’s oil riches. Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth said the settlement is a sign that large oil companies will start to take responsibility for the actions of their subsidiaries.

“One of the most important things is that people can have a normal way of living. The traditional way of living in the Niger Delta is one of farmers and fishermen, and I think it’s very important that nature is restored back to the original state. Then you have a way of income and from that you can build your life.

“If everything is polluted because of the oil spill and you don’t even have access to clean drinking water, then your whole means of living is destroyed. And that of course is grounds for terrorism and all kinds of other attacks.”

In a statement to Reuters, Shell’s executive director for exploration and production said Shell maintains the allegations are false.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Oprah's Medicine Show: Bringing Charlatans to your TV Screen

I've always been skeptical how Ms Winfrey relentlessly pursues and promotes pseudoscientific bullshit.

Live Your Best Life Ever!

Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!

From Newsweek

Oprah takes these things very seriously. They are, after all, the answers she hopes to find for herself. If Oprah has an exquisite ear for the cravings and anxieties of her audience, it is because she shares them. Her own lifelong quest for love, meaning and fulfillment plays out on her stage each day. In an age of information overload, she offers herself as a guide through the confusion.

Her audience cannot get enough. After more than two decades on the air, the Oprah franchise continues to expand. Forty million people tune in to watch her television show each week. O magazine, which features her picture on every cover, sells more than 2 million copies each month. She has her own satellite radio channel and a very popular Web site. Forbes puts Oprah's personal fortune at $2.7 billion. Her empire is about to get bigger. Oprah has made a deal to launch her own cable television channel that will reach 70 million homes. It will be called, of course, the Oprah Winfrey Network and will include Oprah-approved programming on health and living well. In announcing the deal, Oprah said, "I will now have the opportunity to do this 24 hours a day on a platform that goes on forever."[...]

This is where things get tricky. Because the truth is, some of what Oprah promotes isn't good, and a lot of the advice her guests dispense on the show is just bad. The Suzanne Somers episode wasn't an oddball occurrence. This kind of thing happens again and again on Oprah. Some of the many experts who cross her stage offer interesting and useful information (props to you, Dr. Oz). Others gush nonsense. Oprah, who holds up her guests as prophets, can't seem to tell the difference. She has the power to summon the most learned authorities on any subject; who would refuse her? Instead, all too often Oprah winds up putting herself and her trusting audience in the hands of celebrity authors and pop-science artists pitching wonder cures and miracle treatments that are questionable or flat-out wrong, and sometimes dangerous.

Oprah would probably not agree with this assessment. She declined to be interviewed for this article, but in a statement she said, "The guests we feature often share their first-person stories in an effort to inform the audience and put a human face on topics relevant to them. I've been saying for years that people are responsible for their actions and their own well-being. I believe my viewers understand the medical information presented on the show is just that—information—not an endorsement or prescription. Rather, my intention is for our viewers to take the information and engage in a dialogue with their medical practitioners about what may be right for them."

New England: Portland, Maine plans anti-fluoridation drive

Portland Press Herald

Fluoride Leave Our Water will gather signatures to force a vote in Portland Water District towns.
By DENNIS HOEY, Staff Writer June 8, 2009

PORTLAND — The debate over whether adding fluoride to drinking water provides a health benefit is about to begin again, just 13 years after a majority of Cumberland County voters agreed that fluoridation was medically beneficial.

A citizens' group based in Portland will announce today its plans to start a petition drive aimed at forcing the Portland Water District to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water it extracts from Sebago Lake.

That water, which contains 1 part per million of fluoride, flows through the taps of 11 Cumberland County communities. The district serves about 200,000 people.

"Our feeling is that adding fluoride to your drinking water is a decision that should be made by an individual. It should not be left up to the government to self-medicate the people," said Oliver Outerbridge, who is leading the effort.

The Portland resident and restaurant owner heads a group called Fluoride Leave Our Water. FLOW will hold a press conference today at 12:30 p.m. at the GRO Cafe, 437 Congress St., before its volunteers begin canvassing polling places during Tuesday's election.

Outerbridge said the Secretary of State's Office has told him the group must gather at least 8,954 signatures.

If FLOW can get that many signatures, a November referendum question would be presented to voters in the affected communities of Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gorham, Portland, Raymond, Scarborough, South Portland, Standish, Westbrook and Windham.

The group contends that while fluoride may have some value in preventing cavities, the substance is potentially dangerous when ingested in large amounts.

In a press release, Outerbridge said fluoride is "a universally recognized neurotoxin."

FLOW also says that fluoride is used in so many products that adding it to drinking water is excessive.

The Portland Water District began adding fluoride to the drinking water on Aug. 18, 1997, nearly one year after residents in Cumberland County voted 57,136 to 30,075 to add fluoride. In four other votes from 1963 to 1976, the proposal failed.

James Ortengren, a South Portland dentist, led the successful 1996 campaign to add fluoride.

Contacted Sunday night, he said he was surprised it had become an issue again.

Fluoride has been shown to prevent cavities and tooth decay, he said.

"All the science (that it's safe) is there. And there is no question about the science," he said.

Michelle Clements, spokeswoman for the Portland Water District, said the district plans to remain neutral.

"We'd be happy to stop using fluoride if our customers want that," she said.

However, Clements said, the district believes that adding such a small amount of fluoride to the water is safe. The American Dental Association, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control state on their Web sites that they also hold this view.

Massacre in Peru

It's happening right in our southern hemisphere. Democracy Now! this morning had an updated report with interviews of leaders of the indigenous people and eyewitness accounts.

Not suprisingly, the IoS headlined yesterday's story with the number of police killed. (It's an Associated Press story, so it's all about the police, natch!)

But it's Peru's indigenous people who are being massacred. From IndyMedia/Ireland on Saturday:

An ongoing, many month old peaceful protest in the Bagua region of the north western area of Peru was brutally attacked yesterday by state forces, resulting in the deaths of, at least, 25 native Indigenous Amazonian Peruvians. A motorway in the "curve of the devil" region had been blocked by local communities of the area who feel their land, health, livlihood and community is threathened by the governments giveaway of the area, and its precious resources, to multinational oil and gas exploration. They are perhaps right to feel sad, threathened and terrified, knowing how things have faired in neighbouring areas with a similar story, Sion, Equador and beyond...

The Indymedia/Ireland report has many background links.

Listen Up, Traditionalists: A Bible-based Marriage

(H/T to Five Before Chaos.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day Anniversary

Martin Wisse wrote five years ago about the Dutch contribution to D-Day:

At D-Day, Dutch B-25's bombarded targets in Normandy, including the headquarters of a German armoured division; eight of them were lost on operations in June 1944. The Dutch gunboats Hr. Ms. Soemba and Hr. Ms. Flores supported the invasion, targeting German positions on the landing beaches; they were valued so much by the British they gave them the nick name "The Terrible Twins". To counter the threat of German torpedo boats, the dreaded "Schnellbote", Dutch motor torpedo boats were active, while Dutch minesweepers were making the Normandy coast safe, one of which, the Hr.Ms. Marken was destroyed while doing so on 20th May 1944, sinking with only one survivor. A Dutch cruiser, the Hr. Ms.Sumatra was deliberately sank as a wave breaker for the two artificial harbours the Allies constructed at the Normandy coast. (Some of the caissons built for the construction of those harbours and not needed for them were later used to mend Dutch dykes damaged by Allied bombardement later in the year, as well as after the 1953 flood.) Finally, a large number of Navy and merchant marine people and ships were of course used to transport Allied soldiers and supplies to the beaches.

Today, he writes

Most of the attention today has justifiably been on the English, Canadian, American and French contributions to the invasion, but the other countries that took part in it should not be forgotten: there were Dutch, Belgian, Polish, Czech, Commonwealth soldiers who died that day as well.

And as we remember the Holocaust and D-Day and the victims of 65 years ago let's also remember today's victims of wars of aggression.

Censored by Huffington Post

By Max Blumenthal

On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.

Within a few hours, I received an email from a Huffington Post administrator informing me he had scrubbed my video from the site. “I don't see that it has any real news value,” the administrator told me. “For me it only proves that one can find drunk people willing to say just about anything. Especially drunk, moronic people.” For the first time, the premier clearinghouse for online news and opinions had suppressed one of my posts.[...]

Despite the Huffington Post’s rejection of my video report, it has exploded across the blogosphere. Even the rapper 50 Cent posted it prominently on his official website. It two days it has garnered 100,000 views. I hope those who have watched it, especially those predisposed to dismiss it as anti-Israel propaganda or shock video with “no news value,” will at least ask how vitriolic levels of racism are able to flow through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage, why the grandsons of Holocaust survivors feel compelled to offer the Shoah as justification to behave like fascist street thugs, and how the sons and daughters of successful Jewish American families casually merged Zionist cant with crude white supremacism. The willful avoidance of these painful questions by self-proclaimed supporters of Israel is setting the stage for the complete delegitimization of the country they claim to love. As Obama said, “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it.”

Local: Oh, Guano!

Burlington is one of a few cities in this country that promotes farming within its borders. (The city-endorsed Intervale farms are recognised nationally.) The Us vs. Them, turf battle mentality that seems to hold sway - and get sensational press - in City Council and commission meetings just didn't escalate to that level at last night's special Board of Health (I'm a member) hearing. "Oink," you say? Well, indeed, it was about pigs, sea gulls and complaints made by residents in the new north end of town, whose houses are adjacent to Mike Petit's farm at the end of Ethan Allen Parkway. Mr Petit raises pigs and chickens on the 88 acres he leases, and his feeding of them has attracted sea gulls which lie in wait on the rooves of the houses before descending on the farm to feast on food scrap left overs after the pigs have been fed. The board heard testimony from the residents, Code Enforcement staff health officers and Mr Petit. Residents were angered by the gatherings of gulls on roofs and the the crap they left - and said that the value of their homes were effected by it. Code Enforcement stated in their request that there was evidence for issuing a health order, which would have put the onus on Mr Petit to get rid of the gulls. Mr Petit, sympathetic to the residents' complaints, said he didn't want the gulls around either and had met the Vermont Dept of Agriculture guidelines to keep the gulls away from his farm. The Board decided not to issue the health order and asked the residents, the farmer and the city to work collaboratively, instead of spending city money in court, to solve the problem.

Friday, June 5, 2009

An Open Appeal to the House of Bishops

From Louie Crew

"Please end the extraordinary insult of lbgt Christians being done in
your name by the Theology Committtee of the House of Bishops.
See their creation of a panel reported on page 51 of the BLUE BOOK 2009.
Many have asked Bishop Parsley to identify the members of the panel, but he
he has steadfastly refused.

"You would not want a secret panel studying your relationships, nor should
you countenance one studying ours.

"The secret star panel is, of course, a smokescreen. The real agenda is to
persuade GC in Anaheim not to pass any resolutions on same-sex unions at
least until this secret study is made public in 2011.

"Susan Russell and Katie Sherrod document how TEC has been using 'study' as a stalling tactic for years. See http://tinyurl.com/p8m2v4.

"Perhaps I should picket Bishop Parsley's office. At 72, I have much less
risk of rape in a Birmingham jail than I do at General Convention.

"Lgbt Christians have been baptized. Our committed relationships are holy.
End this insult."

Dutch Press Review on EU Elections

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide Daily Press Review

No prizes for guessing that the Freedom Party was the biggest winner in Thursday’s European election in the Netherlands. Nrc.next announces the result as if it were a TV show; shining yellow stars surround a blue background like a sign outside a theatre with the party’s initials PVV in big yellow letters in the middle. The inside pages feature a gold cup inscribed with a quote from party leader Geert Wilders: “We are going to get much, much bigger.”

The populist rightwing Freedom Party won four seats in the European Parliament with its clear campaign message on Europe: no. The other winners in the European election were the centre-left D66 party, whose message was equally simple: “Yes to Europe”.

The Christian Democrats were the only party to remain ahead of the anti-Islam Freedom Party. The conservative VVD managed to hold onto 3 seats in spite of predictions of a disastrous result. The big losers were surprisingly the Labour Party, who had difficulty explaining their complicated message to the electorate during the campaign. In Trouw Development Minister Bert Koenders says “‘It is not about whether you are for or against Europe, it is a about what your party wants to do in Europe.” The Socialist Party, Green Left and smaller Christian parties all held on to their two seats. The Animal Rights Party appears to have just missed gaining one seat in the European Parliament.

Elderly voters turn out in vain

AD reports that voters were well informed about the requirement to produce proof of identity in 350 municipalities. Only the elderly had problems as many of them no longer have valid identity papers. Seventy-two-year-old Maria Verbeek tore up her ballot paper when it turned out that she would not be able to vote using her over-65s pass. She questions the wisdom of the new measure, especially as so few people do actually turn out to vote, asking “Have the government gone mad?”

Many elderly people tried to vote using veteran passes, expired passports, or tattered driving licences. One woman submitted an official complaint at her local polling station.

Around 300 people in the town of Nieuwegein were unable to vote early in the morning, as the ballot boxes had not been delivered to the polling stations. A red-faced mayor apologised to voters, saying, “This just shouldn’t happen, we have done everything we can to rectify the situation.” The error was only discovered 15 minutes before polling stations were due to open.