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.