Wednesday, March 31, 2010

BUMPED UP & UPDATED: Fuckin' Hell! -- NRC/Vermont Yankee Shenanigans!

UPDATE I I - NEW FLASH - as reported by Shay Totten in Blurt/Seven Days, at 1:44 p.m.

Under Pressure, Feds Open Private Meeting on Vermont Yankee

In response to mounting public pressure from state officials and the public, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission today reversed its decision to hold a closed-door meeting in New Hampshire with local officials from the tri-state area surrounding Vermont Yankee.
UPDATE I ON 03/30/10: Maggie Gunderson reporting in GMD: Vermont Delegation Calls on NRC to Reconsider Closed-Door Vermont Yankee Meeting
Maggie Gunderson writes in Green Mountain Daily all about the latest bull shit (read: malice aforethought) to be hidden from Vermonters - all planned in secret! Goddamn corporate scumbags and their obsequious government lackeys!
Once again the NRC is up to its old antics of creating secret meetings for the privileged few it deems as stakeholders. NRC's alleged Government-to-Government meeting is in direct violation of federal and state Sunshine Laws, the NRC Chair's commitment to NRC transparency and inclusiveness, and President Obama's promise for Change to the electorate to usher in a new era of openness in our federal democracy.
This is an ace scoop from Maggie! Read it all.

(Health) Disaster Capitalism

Make a buck, make a buck with your organs. It is not a 'donation' if you're going to make personal gain from someone's illnesses. Reported in USA TODAY, a study found that the possibility of receiving fees for organ donations increased the number of those who are willing to donate a kidney to a stranger. The study called for a test of a regulated payment system for organ donation. Some medical ethics experts, however, have raised concerns regarding this proposal. "I would not be against a reasonable trial to see how it works ... (but) we do not want a society in which the rich literally live off the bodies of the poor," one expert said. Yeah, right.

The Men's Club

From Religion Dispatches, a thoughtful analysis: "An Unholy Holy Week: Is the All-Male Rule of the Roman Catholic Church
'In fact, the all-male rule of the Roman Catholic Church is self-destructing. Ordained men from priests to the Pope are proving that it wasn’t a good idea to leave church governance to an old boys’ network. They have been focused on forgiving each other and covering up crimes “to avoid scandal”—that is, to protect each other, their power, and the church’s wealth.'
Oh yes, hiding behind that clerical collar. My ex, who's a PK, always complained about that! This also happens to a certain extent within some Protestant denominations and certainly within the Anglican Communion (with a smattering of women clergy, it's still a white men's club), whose leaderships remain unaccountable and self-protecting!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Highly Recommended: "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda"

This is one fucking helluva program I recommend watching. Yeah, call me passionate.

Earlier this month, PBS Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley hosted african american leaders for a forum titled, "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda." Panelists included, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Cornel West and Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan. Great program: watch the rebroadcast here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Helen Thomas on her one question for Obama

Helen Thomas, the quintessential journalist, was testing Obama's credibility. As you'll find out, the president, the quintessential pol, didn't attempt to answer her question. He didn't take Ms Thomas au serieux and didn't measure up.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bruce Graham, an architect with integrity

If I had the talent, my life would have taken another course and I would have been an architect. Bruce Graham has died at aged 83.
"Quick-witted, curious and always alert, Graham seemed to capture the spirit of the age from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. In a sense, he reinvented the role of the architect, recognising that the job is just as much about city-making and power-broking as it is about pure design talent, which Graham possessed in spades."
I love the above photo by Linda Nylind.
"... the exposed structural arches of Exchange House (1990) that effortlessly span 80 metres above the railway tracks leading to Liverpool Street station in London..."
I frequently took trains into and from the station when I lived in London 10 years ago and was always amazed by those arches. I love buildings with that kind of integrity!

From an interview in 2002:
"Let me describe the difference between my idea of architecture and a lot of other architects. Number one, architecture is not painting or sculpture. Architecture is much more like music, which has an element of lime. Architecture is about space and movement. It's four-dimensional. I learned that very early when I went to Chartres Cathedral. I walked up the hill and found the square and then the church and walked in, and this fantastic space opened up. There was a funeral, and they were playing Mozart's unfinished Requiem. I had to cry. Moving through that space with that music was unbelievable. Space is what architecture is all about. Not only interior but also exterior. And the movement of people. That's true whether you go to Greece, or to Karnak, or to any other place and see any other great architecture of the past. I believe that modern architecture should do the same. In Chicago our advantage was that we had engineers. Structure is still essential to the creation of space, just as it was in Chartres Cathedral."

[Purely subjective and personal opinion: Graham's designs stand among other buildings I admire; there are so many - Piano's Menil Collection and Centre Pompidou; Moneo's Audrey Jones Beck Building at Houston's MFA; Van der Rohe's Seagram Building; Kahn's Kimball Museum in Ft. Worth; Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan; Rietveld's Schroder House; Koolhaas's Seattle Library; Bollulo's George R. Brown Convention Center; Burgee's Pennzoil Place (now Bank of America).]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Citizen's Arrest

It's a case of journalists acting as citizens.

Remember back in 2004 when RTE (Irish television) journalist Carole Coleman asked George Bush tough questions about the death toll in Iraq and European opposition to the invasion? This week, another Irish journalist - David Cronin - went further than Coleman.

On Monday, Tony Blair, Bush's lackey and "Middle East Peace Envoy," was in Brussels to report to MEPs about his current role in the Middle East. Cronin was close by Blair and rather than ask questions, he arrested him for "crimes against peace and the crimes of aggression." Radio Netherlands correspondent Vanessa Mock asked Cronin why he confronted Blair. It was no publicity stunt.

Burlington Bans Smoking in Parks & Beaches

On Monday the Burlington city council voted unanimously to ban smoking at beaches and parks and has future plans to include a total ban on Church Street. (In 2004, the city banned smoking in restaurants and bars.) Explaining Monday's ruling, councilor Joan Shannon and current chair of the ordinance committee writes in her local Front Porch Forum, "there will be cleaner air in the areas of our parks where people tend to congregate." Surely this will displease some smokers and civil libertarians. We all know about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke in enclosed areas. While it may appear as common sense to ban smoking outdoors, scientific studies on the effects of second-hand smoke outdoors remain inconclusive.

Everyone hates smokers anyway, so the city council ruling was an easy, feel-good change to the city's ordinance.

How to enforce this new law is another matter. That's not been worked out. The smoking ban at the Cherry Street CCTA bus stop has not been enforced. (It should be noted that neither the city's pesticides ordinance nor the dogs-on-leash law is enforced to their full extent.) Appearance matters. The news of Monday's ruling is certainly a diversion from the bad press city council got from the Burlington Telecom mess (councilors knew what was going on and didn't do anything about it), so Monday's ruling gives the temporary positive impression that the council is doing some work.

The city allows car idling for three minutes. If the intention was to promote better health, what about cars idling while stopped on streets crossing the pedestrian Church Street? Exhaust is linked to increased rates of asthma in children and contributes to air pollution, too - probably more than SHS. What about the plethora of cars that park at beaches and parks. City Hall Park is surrounded on three sides by parking. What about run-off into our precious Lake? A total pedestrian zone downtown is unlikely. The tourists and merchants would complain and the city would lose lucrative revenue.

[Over a year ago, the Board of Health recommended to city council that Burlington stop water fluoridation, in light of new findings in the NRC Report on fluoride in drinking water, citing particularly its effects on infants, kidney patients, diabetics and the elderly. There have been a couple of hearings by the public safety committee, but the recommendation has been untouched by city council. Politics and priorities are at play here, of course. Common sense would tell us that a decision to remove fluoride should be easy as the one the council took on Monday evening, but I won't hold my breath.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lovely Lullaby

EMBED-Dog Sings To Soothe Crying Baby - Watch more free videos

Just Plain Pathetic
Church abuse: 'Wir haben es nicht gewusst'

The Catholic church in the Netherlands was simply unaware about the abuse of children in its care, cardinal Ad Simonis told a tv show on Tuesday night.

'Wir haben es nicht gewusst, (we did not know)' the cardinal said. 'It is a loaded term, but it is true.'

The phrase was used by Germans after the Second World War as the horror of the death camps unfolded.

Many bishops in the 1950s, 60s and 70s did not know about the abuse, Simonis said. He himself was a bishop in various places for 38 years.

The number of abuse claims made to the church organisation Hulp & Recht has now reached over 1,100.

'A bishop does not have direct say over religious orders and congregations, so a lot remains hidden from him,' the cardinal told tv talk show Pauw & Witteman.

The cardinal said there is no direct link between the abuse and celibacy laws for Catholic priests. 'It can be connected to poor preparation for celibacy and poor choice of candidates,' he said.
Simonis is lying, of course.

More details on Dutch victims of abuse within the church.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Andrew Plus
"We remember Oscar Romero, a Roman Catholic bishop who was killed by an assassins bullet while he celebrated a mass. That was 30 years ago today. We also remember the martyrs of El Salvador, the priests, nuns, and lay people who were murdered, raped, jailed, and who simply disappeared because they gave voice to the poor and ministered to them. They spoke out against the injustices that robbed ordinary people of food, shelter, land and the ability to make a decent living and basic human dignity. They spoke out against a government that favored the rich to the exclusion of the poor.
[...]"On our own every day level, what we do in this parish and diocese may appear very mundane by comparison to standing up to a military junta. But being a friend and apprentice of Jesus among his people is still costly, a little scary, and very important. It may involve welcoming a mentally ill young man into your church who has walked through the rain from his group home into your congregation with open arms. It may mean choosing to welcome the homeless into your church when it gets too cold outside. It may mean driving around bringing meals to the homebound who would otherwise go hungry. It may mean standing up to the media no-nothings and pot-stirrers who tell us mean-spirited lies that Jesus had nothing to do with the poor--or at least gently but firmly correcting those who are taken by their harangue.

"I am certain that Romero's own journey was not easy. He was not raised to be a radical. He was raised in privilege and was appointed to care for the church in his archdiocese in a rather conventional way. Appoint priests, oversee schools, manage the books...don't rock the boat. But he had a heart for faith, and was willing to go where Jesus led him. At first tentatively, and later boldly, he began to connect the dots. He believed that the job of the church was to care for the weakest of God's people. For Romero, this was a death sentence.

"The thing about walking with the poor is that may feel like death. Maybe we won't get beat up by goons, or shot by an assassin. It might mean that we are not invited to few parties or considered a little crazy by our relatives. But we are going to the places where Jesus went, we are seeing the faces that Jesus sees, and we learning love from the people for whom Jesus died and rose again."
Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Tricky Dick's Dream Come True

Weird, huh? The Dems pass a Republican health care bill and the GOP hates it. Only in's Taylor Marsh in HuffPost:
'When you have Speaker Pelosi's office inviting only the boys, so called "progressives" who are insider Democrats whose only goal it is to prop up the presidency instead of focusing on strong policy, the current health care bill is what you get. Even when you go beyond the issue that Democrats willingly eroded women's rights, the fact that ... See moreDemocrats didn't even try to push for a public option reveals the fundamental failure of Democrats, because they ignored what the majority of the American people want.'
It just shows how far to the right the Democrats have gone. And the wimpshit "progressives" lost their soul to ObamaCorp and didn't have the cajones to stick up for the people!
'From throwing the American people into a system without any choice, providing private insurance companies with new customers, to using women's rights to get it done while progressive Democrats enabled it to happen, what Democrats have done is produce a Republican health care bill that Richard Nixon would have loved.'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Public Health Champion Receives 2010 Stockholm Water Prize

Dr Rita Colwell is announced as the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize laureate, for her exceptional contributions to control the spread of cholera. On September 9, during Water Week, H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will present the award. Read more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

TruGreen is not so Tru and not so Green, but we already knew that.

**Breaking News II**: TruGreen Fined for Pesticide Misapplications in New York State

This is not surprising. We had a similar situation in Burlington a few years ago and were forced to put a moratorium on TruGreen's application of chemicals within 500 ft of Lake Champlain, until the company showed the Board of Health its SOP on notifying residents about applications:

Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2010:
New York State has fined TruGreen, the world’s largest professional lawn and landscape company, half a million dollars for numerous violations for misapplying pesticides and inaccurate recordkeeping, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) consent order filed last week. Seems hard to believe that the Earth Day Network is even considering keeping TruGreen as a sponsor of the Network’s National Earth Day events.

New York State is demanding a civil penalty of $400,000 be paid by TruGreen before April 15, 2010. As part of the consent order agreement, $100,000 of the civil penalty is suspended as long as TruGreen meets the requirements of the order which requires the company to retain an independent third-party auditor to conduct an Environmental Management Systems review of TruGreen statewide operations. TruGreen is then required to create and implement an Environmental Management Systems manual.

The violations took place between 2007 and 2009, with the most egregious occurring in 2009.
**Breaking News II** Included is an Update in the link above. Beyond Pesticides received the following statement today from Earth Day Network regarding their partnership agreement with TruGreen:
Beyond Pesticides received the following statement from Earth Day Network regarding their sponsorship agreement with TruGreen: “Earth Day Network had previously announced an educational sponsorship with TruGreen in respect to organic and sustainable lawn and landscape care. Due to unanticipated events, Earth Day Network and TruGreen regrettably announce their relationship for the 40th anniversary event has been suspended. TruGreen continues to respect the commitment Earth Day Network is making to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and Earth Day Network recognizes TruGreen’s efforts on behalf of organic and sustainable lawn and land care.”

Related: Johann Hari has written a piece in The Nation takes mainstream environmental groups to task for selling out their principles, often in exchange for money from the worst polluters. He also appeared on Democracy Now!

Today is World Water Day: Stand with Haiti

... and PIH's partner charity: water have launched Unshaken, a campaign to support new clean water projects in Haiti. Learn how PIH and charity:water will bring clean water to eight new communities this year:

A Story of Hope: Improving Access to Clean Water
Haitians have lacked access to the very basic right to clean water long before the January 12 earthquake. It was this need that first brought charity: water, a New York City-based nonprofit, together with Partners In Health (PIH) and our Haitian sister organization Zanmi Lasante (ZL), in a partnership to build community water projects. Over the past two years, our partnership has improved access to clean water for over 20,000 people in some of the poorest and hardest-to-reach communities in the Central Plateau of Haiti by providing latrines and household and community-level water.

Following the earthquake, charity: water knew that Haiti needed their support more than ever. So in February, we trekked out to eight more communities in desperate need of improved access to potable water. In some cases, these particular communities have grown tremendously in population--since the earthquake, the average household size in these areas has grown from seven people to ten people. Over the next year, PIH and ZL will be expanding our water and sanitation program by implementing projects in these eight communities--nearly triple what we have historically completed in a given year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ex-Gen. Sheehan's homophobia

Not that I really give a damn about the US policy of DADT. Note to Gen. Sheehan: Gay soldiers are not an issue in The Netherlands.

Radio Netherlands:

Retired US Marine General John Sheehan got one thing right in his testimony to the US Congress: gays serve in the Dutch military. But it takes a foreigner to point that out. Here in The Netherlands, gays have served in the military for decades.

General Sheehan blamed the fall of the UN enclave in Srebrenica in 1995, which led to the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, partly on the fact that homosexuals served in the Dutch military.

"That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two. The Dutch army allowed homosexuals and you know what happened there."

The retired general made these comments during a hearing considering whether to lift the US 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that allows homosexuals to serve in the military only if they keep quiet about it.


The reaction here in The Netherlands has been a universal, 'huh?' From the current Foreign Minister to the Defence Minister at the time of the Srebrenica massacre; from leaders of unions representing soldiers to the former army commander; all have said that General Sheehan's remarks do not have the slightest basis in reality.

The Dutch caretaker Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said via Twitter that he was amazed at the ex general's comments - saying they reflected more about the discussion around homosexuals in the US army than anything else.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sullivan: "When will this Pope step down?"

Andrew Sullivan, via The Lead,
The current moral authority for all Catholics personally put the interests of the hierarchy above the welfare of vulnerable children. He heard a case of a priest forcing an eleven-year-old to perform oral sex on him, and he did not take that priest to the police, as he should have, or removed him from his duties immediately. He sent him to therapy and allowed him to continue molesting children in future parishes, and never informed the parents of the priest's past. Would you have done that? Would anyone you know have done that? Would anyone you know who had done that be able to sleep at night?
"When will this Pope step down?"

In Burlington - March 20th - Anti-War Forum and Action to Mark the 7th Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

War Without End in the Obama Era:
Understanding & Challenging U.S. Empire and the War Economy
Saturday, March 20th
Burlington City Hall, Church Street
1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Introduction: Nancy Lynch, Director Peace and Justice Center

Panel and Discussion 1: The War Abroad: Resisting war and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine

Panel and Discussion 2: The War at Home: How the wars undermine Vermont's public services, unions and working families, and health care

Rally and March to follow on Church Street.

Event Organizers include: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vermont Action for Peace, VT Chapter US Labor Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Will Miller Green Mountain Veterans for Peace, Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel, International Socialist Organization, WILPF and Peace & Justice Center

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Poison Prevention Week! Lose the Pesticides for the Kids!

From Beyond Pesticides:
Numerous scientific studies that show children carrying a body burden of pesticides used in homes and elevated rates of childhood cancer in households that use pesticides, given children’s special vulnerability to pesticides.

“Proper and safe storage, use and supervision of all household products can substantially reduce exposures in the home,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Poison Prevention Week serves as a reminder for everyone to keep pesticides away from children, and to read and follow all labels to minimize the potential dangers from pesticides.”

However, EPA fails to alert the public to the limitations of the pesticide regulatory process, such as no evaluation of endocrine disrupting effects, low level exposures, the effects of mixtures and synergistic effects between pesticides and with pharmaceuticals, etc. EPA chooses to focus on pesticide poisoning of children associated with accidental ingestion which, while important, does not capture the many other ways through which children are exposed to chemicals. For instance, a wide range of consumer products such as deodorants, soaps and toys contain the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, which is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase the risk for cancer. Fetal exposure to triclosan, which accumulates in the human body, can impair brain development and long-term neuropsychological development.

Secondary exposures to pesticides and other toxic chemicals should not be ignored. Studies have found pesticides in household dust and persists in homes, even after removed from the market. In 2008, a study found significant amounts of pyrethroid pesticides in indoor dust of homes and childcare centers, while another found that 75% of homes with pregnant women were contaminated with pesticides. Hazardous wood preservatives, still allowed for use on utility poles, continue to be found on children’s playgrounds. In a tragic case earlier this year, two girls, aged 4 years and 15 months, died after a toxic pesticide drifted into their home. The agency stresses the importance of reading the product label, which is misleading in suggesting that compliance with the pesticide label instructions is fully protective of children, the public and the environment.

EPA promotes poison prevention each year during National Poison Prevention Week to increase public awareness of the potential danger to children from pesticides and other household products. In 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that more than half of the two million poisoning incidents each year involve children younger than six years old. Leading causes of poisoning include cosmetics such as perfume and nail polish, deodorant and soap, household cleaning products and medications.

If you have been exposed to a pesticide or other toxic substance and may be experiencing non-life-threatening symptoms, call your local poison center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Call 911 in case of more serious exposures. EPA urges the public also to report all exposures to the product manufacturer (including the registration number found on the product label of all pesticide products registered by EPA).

For what it's worth: On Health Care

From Undernews, a piece by Rose McKinnon of the Medical Committee for Human Rights - "published almost forty years ago, in November 1971,when Dennis Kucinich was 24 years old. Those who consider him radical or impatient might want to bear this in mind."
(1) Health care should be universal. By this we mean that it should cover all people residing in the U.S. and should be treated as a right, rather than as a privilege; and must be available to all people, regardless of their ability to pay.

(2) Health care should be comprehensive, i. e., it must include all forms of care. It must not exclude drugs, dentistry, mental health care and preventive medicine, which to one extent or another, all of the present proposals exclude.

(3) Health care should be financed by national progressive taxation.

(4) Costs must necessarily be controlled in order to curtail the present run-away inflation; the increased demand a financing mechanism will generate would make such control imperative, and it is likely to involve government regulation of health-related industries.

(5) There should be no coinsurance, deductables, or other complex formulae, for these become almost incomprehensible, and tend to discourage the seeking of preventive care.

(6) The supply of health care must be expanded and a greater effort made to see that minority groups and women are adequately represented among every category of health care personnel; present imbalances must be eliminated.

(7) The health delivery system must be reorganized to produce a more efficient allocation of resources among and within geographical areas and cities.

(8) Last, and most important, there should be a much greater degree of public accountability within the health care system, so that those who receive care also have a part in controlling matters of quality, priorities and ethos (e.g.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Death of a Dutch Minister of State: H.A.F.M.O. (Hans) van Mierlo

My dad always admired this man. Dutch politician and former government minister Hans van Mierlo has died on Thursday, March 11, in an Amsterdam hospital, aged 78.

From the obituary in NRC/international
He himself has now become part of history. Henricus Antonius Franciscus Maria Oliva van Mierlo -- or Hafmo, as his party members affectionately referred to him -- was a philosopher, a bohemian, a romantic, an orator, a bon vivant, a master of paradox, an eternal doubter and yes, of course, also a politician.

Above anything else, he was the political embodiment of the Dutch cultural revolution of the 1960s. The movement that never really became a revolution, because the Netherlands was a country where so-called 'repressive tolerance' quickly made D66 and Van Mierlo himself a part of the system they so maligned. Van Mierlo, who started out a critic of the state, died an honorary Minister of State. He himself would undoubtedly have appreciated the paradox.

Martin Wisse has written an assessment, particularly of Van Mierlo's role as founder of the political party, D66.

Photo: Hans van Mierlo (red scarf) with H.D. (Herman-Diederik) Tjeenk Willink, Vice President of the Council of State, on their way to the Royal Palace, 2009; courtesy P.P.E.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Congress has voted for war, 356-65-9

Only 60 Democrats voted yes to end the war in Afghanistan; among them was Rep. Peter Welch from Vermont!
A plain reading of yesterday's vote on the Kucinich war powers resolution is that an overwhelming majority of the House has authorized the Afghanistan war, including a majority of Democrats. The war now has greater legitimacy. The vote was 356-65-9.

[If Rep. John Conyers had been present, the dissenting bloc would have been 66, including just five Republicans. Few members took the option of abstaining.]
Please call Peter Welch's office - Phones: (802) 652-2450 or toll free at 888-605-7270 - to thank him for his vote yesterday for H CON RES 248 [a privileged resolution introduced last Thursday by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)],directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan.

Monday, March 8, 2010

WCAX: IRV repeal expected to sail through legislature

WCAX: Montpelier, Vermont - March 8, 2010:
IRV repeal expected to sail through legislature

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are going to follow the will of Burlington voters and approve a charter change repealing Instant Runoff Voting. Some had been pushing for a delay on the vote.

When Burlington residents voted to repeal Instant Runoff Voting, it still needed to go through one more step to become final. The legislature must approve any charter change, and both leaders in the House and Senate say they will take it up and pass it.
"Our hope is to bring it forward as quickly as possible," said Rep. Shap Smith/D-Vt. House Speaker.

Sen. Peter Shumlin/D-Vt. Senate President Pro Tem: "I expect the legislature will move and support the will of the voters."

Reporter Kristin Carlson asked: "And that includes you?"

Sen. Shumlin replied, "Absolutely."

"It seems to me that the people of Burlington have spoken on this issue and I would concur with them on their viewpoint," said Rep. Smith.

A united front that hurts the effort of people still fighting to save IRV, and bolsters IRV opponents who had worried Progressives would seek a delay. Some had talked behind the scenes about trying to stall a legislative vote for a year, so Instant Runoff Voting could be brought back to Burlington residents. Both House and Senate Leaders say if there's a change, then they'll simply hold another vote.

"It's our job to follow the will of the voters and that's what we do here in charter change requests," said Sen. Shumlin.

In response Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss says he remains disappointed in the outcome of the IRV vote, but that the charter change is not his decision, it's the legislatures, and he will leave it to them.

Chris Hedges: "Calling All Rebels"

Yet another brilliant column by Chris Hedges:
"There are no constraints left to halt America’s slide into a totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics are a sham. The media have been debased and defanged by corporate owners. The working class has been impoverished and is now being plunged into profound despair. The legal system has been corrupted to serve corporate interests. Popular institutions, from labor unions to political parties, have been destroyed or emasculated by corporate power. And any form of protest, no matter how tepid, is blocked by an internal security apparatus that is starting to rival that of the East German secret police. The mounting anger and hatred, coursing through the bloodstream of the body politic, make violence and counter-violence inevitable. Brace yourself. The American empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying.

"The engines of social reform are dead. Liberal apologists, who long ago should have abandoned the Democratic Party, continue to make pathetic appeals to a tone-deaf corporate state and Barack Obama while the working and middle class are ruthlessly stripped of rights, income and jobs. Liberals self-righteously condemn ...imperial wars and the looting of the U.S. Treasury by Wall Street but not the Democrats who are responsible."

Read all of "Calling All Rebels" here.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton jailed for nine months

From Friday's Guardian,
A British soldier who became a hero to anti-war activists after refusing to return to Afghanistan was jailed for nine months today, despite claims that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There are many soldiers in the army who have extremely unpleasant experiences, who watch friends die or suffer appalling injuries, but they have to return and do their duty," Judge Advocate Emma Peters told Lance Corporal Joe Glenton.

Glenton, 27, fled to Asia in mid-2007, before he was due to start a second tour in Afghanistan, staying abroad for two years before returning to speak at Stop the War rallies. He wrote to Gordon Brown to denounce the conflict and urge the return of all British troops.

The court martial in Colchester, Essex, sentenced him to nine months in a military jail for going absent without leave, after he pleaded guilty. He was also demoted to private. His family and supporters said Glenton, who served in Afghanistan for seven months with the Royal Logistics Corps in 2006, had been singled out because of his activism and would appeal.
From New Left Project,
A spokesperson for Stop the War said: "This extremely harsh sentence ignored many of the facts of the case; that Joe had post-traumatic stress disorder, that he had raised concerns about the war with his superiors and been bullied as a result, and that he had voluntarily returned to barracks after going absent without leave.

"The judge herself made it clear the sentence was not based on the facts of the case but on a desire to deter other members of the military from taking a stand of conscience."

She added: "Joe is a brave and defiant man. He left the court under guard with a clenched fist held high. His outspoken defiance and the national campaign to defend him had already forced the authorities to drop the much more serious charge of desertion."
Send messages of support to:
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton
Military Corrective Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp
Colchester CO2 9NU, UK

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UPTATED: IRV has been repealed in Burlington


The vote tally has yet to be certified, but unofficial results from yesterday's city election show that citizens voted to repeal IRV by 52% (3,972 to 3,669). Question $5 to repeal lost in all wards except 4 and 7. In Ward 6 it was pretty much a 50/50 split. Here's the breakdown by ward (thanks to Shay Totten):

Ward 1: 405 to keep, 264 to repeal
Ward 2: 428 to keep, 185 to repeal
Ward 3: 510 to keep, 292 to repeal
Ward 4: 1203 to repeal, 606 to keep
Ward 5: 793 to keep, 545 to repeal
Ward 6: 490 to keep, 477 to repeal
Ward 7: 1006 to repeal, 437 to keep

The winning margin is not overwhelming. In fact, it shows there are plenty of citizens who are still split about the way Burlington chooses its mayor. Clearly, the two groups outside Burlington that campaigned against Question #5 are embarrassed; the money they donated to their efforts didn't match up to the grassroots organisaton and enthusiasm of the Burlington citizens.

Shay interviewed Jason Lorber (50%matters) and Sandy Baird (Repeal IRV) for their analysis of the vote on Channel 17's election coverage.

The Lege in Montpelier will have to approve this vote since it is a Charter change.


Side Note: En route to the Repeal IRV post-election gathering in the NNE, I received a phone call from VPIRG, one of the state organisations opposing Question #5. It was a solicitation phone call for another donation. (I've been a long-time supporter of their environmental activism.) But I thought it was strange that they were phoning on election night and told the nice woman just that. I also told her that I did not appreciate an outside group meddling with a local citizen initiative and that VPIRG should stick to their environmental activism, but not expect another annual contribution from me. "Would you like me to pass on that comment?" she asked. "Sure," I replied, "but I don't think it will do any good."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Town Meeting Day!

From A town meeting lesson, an editorial in today's Rutland Herald:
Vermont is called the most rural state because the highest percentage of its residents lives in small towns and rural settings. Today is the day when this dispersed but civic-minded populace meets in schools and town halls throughout the state to take care of local business. Town Meeting Day is both ordinary and extraordinary — as commonplace as the town's road salt budget, as meaningful as democracy itself.


One should not underestimate the importance of what to the outsider looks totally mundane. Veterans of town meeting know how townspeople can tie themselves into knots discussing issues that seem small but which are intimately tied to local personalities and to long histories of controversy. Voters are not making decisions in the abstract; rather, they are working out a town's complex and all too human history.

Monday, March 1, 2010

City voters will decide repeal question

Indeed, the 50%Matters folks have establishment state and local politicians and state political organisations listed on their website as endorsers of continuing IRV. The audacity of it!: Trust us, we know better than you! This approach of deceiving the voters is much like what the pro-fluoridationists - CDC, ADA, etc. - used a few years ago in the Burlington referendum to remove fluoride, asking the voters to trust their authority - when the science was not on the side of water fluoridation. Repeal IRV in Burlington is a citizen initiative and not funded by groups outside Burlington.