Sunday, April 29, 2012


This is the 2,000th post for Blazing Indiscretions! And what a better way than to celebrate this anniversary:

On April 29, 1977, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas ordained its first woman priest, Helen Havens. In 1981 St Stephens parish at Woodhead and W. Alabama, Houston - where I was a member - was the first church in the Diocese of Texas with the vision to call a woman rector. Guess who? From the parish history pages:
Clax [Monro, the rector at the time] appointed Bob Evans to chair a search committee and the work began. Members visited other churches to hear their candidates, and received recommendations from parishioners. Helen Havens, an assistant at St. Francis, was recommended and some members of the committee were alarmed. The idea of a woman rector was very new. In fact, there were not women rectors in the Diocese of Texas and very few in the United States. Three members of the committee agreed to meet the prospect and were quickly convinced that she was the best choice. After numerous meetings, debates, and prayers, the vestry finally and miraculously recommended that the church call Helen Havens. The Vestry vote was close, but favorable, and Bob Evans and Sidney Mitchell called on Bishop Benitez to request the call.

The Bishop was concerned about St. Stephen's choice and took the unusual step of requiring the Vestry to reconsider its vote. The Vestry met again and voted with a greater majority to sustain its original vote. Messrs. Evans and Mitchell met again with the Bishop who was still concerned and again asked the Vestry to reconsider its action. At this, Bob Evans said that he would comply, but that he wanted the Bishop to explain to the Vestry why he wanted another vote. This ended the matter, and Helen Havens was called to St. Stephen's. The first woman to be called as rector to a parish in the Diocese of Texas, Helen began her ministry with us on Thanksgiving Day, 1981.

Friday, April 27, 2012


People should wake up, but I won't hold my breath; after all, we live in the United States of Complacency where the latest CD by Justin Bieber and the most popular episode of House is more important than our civil liberties.

Wired: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2013 Elections "Coverage" Neither on PBS nor NPR

Well duh, of course you won't. But I don't think people really care, they just accept this as a matter of course. This is an interview with Robert McChesney by Paul Jay on the money game, the "horse race," and the corruption. From The Real News Network, from which PBS and NPR could learn a whole lot.

More at The Real News

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Etan Patz

Authorities in New York City have closed off a street in SoHo, one of the trendiest consumerist shopping areas in the world, to search for a child who disappeared nearly thirty years ago. (Link: New York Daily News.) The media would have us believe that this displays America's regard for human life. Then I think immediately about our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Photo credit: Bryan Smith for The New York Daily News.


The first Earth Day was celebrated on 22 April 1970.  I was "there," but oh gosh! with these anniversaries, I realise that I'm getting older! That was 42 years ago!
... [I]t activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.

Today, read Juan Cole: Earth Day means nothing if We Don’t Limit Carbon Emissions

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Prague Spring?

Tens of thousands of Czechs have staged one of the country's biggest protests since the fall of communism, marching in Prague against spending cuts, tax rises and corruption, and calling for the end of a centre-right government already close to collapse.

Police estimated between 80,000 and 90,000 workers, students and pensioners marched through the capital on Saturday to rally in Wenceslas Square. Chanting and whistling, the crowd held banners reading "Away with the government" and "Stop thieves".

Does this sound familiar, or what?
"This government is devastating state structures and is demeaning the unprotected with its asocial reforms," Jaroslav Zavadil, the head of the Confederation of Trade Unions, told the crowd.

Could this mean another Prague Spring?

Friday, April 20, 2012

"We are the next generation of Americans."

Burlington High School sophomore Jacques Okuka, at yesterday's student-organised direct action against systemic racism at BHS:

"We've been experiencing racism since I first came to America. I've been talking to teachers and nothing's been happening."

"We are the next generation of Americans. If we're going to make a change it's got to come from us, not from our teachers and our parents."

Yesterday morning I went to the demonstration to show solidarity with the brave Somali Bantu and Congolese students. Their action reminded me of Greensboro 1960.


Freedom of religion was granted to the Jews of New Amsterdam on 20 April 1657.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today's Burlington High School Action Against Racism

Brave Somali Bantu and Congolese high school students, who have self-organized a one day boycott of Burlington High School, were protesting this morning in front of the school against the systemic racism there. The power elite of the school admin and Burlington school board have decided to tackle the racism slowly and on their terms, rather than listen to the concerns of the students. I was present for about an hour in solidarity with the students.

BHS students chanting "we didn't fail the school, the school failed us.".

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Systemic Racism in Burlington, Vermont

"The data [from nearly 26,000 traffic stops made over a two-year period by police in Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and the University of Vermont] showed “statistically significant disparities” between black and white male drivers across all four departments. Black drivers in Burlington and South Burlington were twice as likely as whites to be pulled over. In South Burlington, the rate at which black drivers were searched after a traffic stop was five times higher than for white drivers."

At last Monday's City Council meeting (BURLINGTON FREE PRESS):
On the hot seat was Burlington schools Superintendent Jeanne Collins, who endured sharp questioning from Ward 3 City Councilor Vince Brennan on her commitment to equity.
Lindsay Reid, a former Burlington school district employee, said she was not satisfied with Collins’ responses: “She persists in protecting the delicate ego of white teachers at the expense of students and families that face discrimination.

Reid, who is originally from Burkino Faso, agreed with Brennan that it is time for new leadership in the school district. So did Jeanine Bunzigiye, an immigrant from the Congo and a former home-school liaison for Burlington schools. Many immigrant and refugee families are weary of talking about problems and want better academic outcomes for their children, she said. “I think they really want to see some action,” Bunzigiye said.

During public comment, about 10 speakers said the school district has a long way to go to eradicate racism. Reuben Jackson, a teacher at Burlington High School, said the district has made some notable efforts to address its historical homogeneity, but needs to go much further before students and staff reach real comfort levels."

There is a student walk out at Burlington High School tomorrow. They want us to show up in solidarity for the walk out at 8:00 A.M., so probably show up at 7:00. The students specifically asked for Occupy Burlington to come out. Let's not disappoint.

We need to unite the 99% to make the social change that will benefit all of us. The Burlington School Board holds the power to the leardership of the Burlington School District.

An open letter from Rabbi Joshua Chasen, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue. (Please share it with others via e-mail as well. ~ thanks. )

Racism is a disease of the soul, intractable, insidious. Most of us white people, myself included, do not understand the depth of this problem. We have a problem of racism in our schools because we have a problem of racism in our city, our country and world.

Twenty years ago, there were few people of color in Burlington and Vermont, and it was difficult to get a hearing for complaints about racism. Now, in part because we have welcomed to town many refugees of color, there is a greater willingness to hear about the effects of persistent racism. But, let's face it: there is still a hope in the hearts of many in our community that Vermont will stay as white as the driven snow. We won't. We're not.

Our schools are where these issues tend to surface first. Our teachers are challenged to work with children of a variety of backgrounds, styles of learning, levels of previous education. Let us recognize the challenge that they face and stand with them in their efforts to educate all of our children. The Diversity and Equity Task Force Report contains many helpful suggestions about how to move forward. It is not an attack on the competence of our teachers.
It does recognize the persistence of racism throughout our society, including our schools. Still today, too many teachers tell children of color to ignore racist insults, suggesting that they were not intended to be racist. Still today, children of color are fearful in our schools. Students who are classified as ELL (English Language Learners) hear the debate about the Diversity and Equity Task Force Report and feel that they are being called "stupid." Surely that is no one's intent, but it is what is happening.

We have come to a moment of truth in our neck of the woods, a time when we must acknowledge that we no longer are mostly European in origin; a time when we must celebrate our multi-racial, multi-cultural society. The change is not easy. Nothing is gained by calling each other "racists" or "anti-teacher." We always must seek strong leadership in such times, but nothing is gained by scapegoating each other.
Let's keep our eyes on the prize, the well being of all of our children. When a child of color is humiliated by a racist comment, the well being of every child in our city is diminished, as is the well being of every one of us of all ages.

This message must come from every pulpit in town. Each one of us is created in the image of God. Instead of focusing on the low level of language competence of children who have landed here after harrowing journeys out of violence and civil wars, let us focus on our own cultural competence, our capacity to be comfortable enough with other cultures so that we can create real social equity.

Not an easy task, by any means. Let us be grateful to the men and women who choose to take on this challenge in our schools. And let us hold every last one of us accountable to the fulfillment of the historic promise of our country to be a place where every child is given an equal chance to fulfill his or her dreams.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Yes, it was On This Day. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on 16 April 1963 while incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
-- "Letter from Birmingham Jail,"

This was nearly 50 years ago! Reading this letter when I was a sophomore in high school made an impression on me by changing my life and opening up my eyes to economic injustice and systemic racism, not just the little acts of meanness.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Vermont has joined the growing number of states with public water systems that are switching from chlorine to chloramine as a water disinfectant. In April 2006, the Champlain Water District, which serves 68,000 people in Chittenden County, began adding ammonium sulfate to the chlorine, creating chloramine. Almost immediately, some water district customers complained about skin, digestive and breathing problems after using the water but nothing was done about it.

Recently in Seven Days newspaper there was an article about the introduction of the chloramine additive to the water in Grand Isle.


Burlington residents can get informed and get involved... and put a stop to the chloraminization of Burlington water before the authorities decide what they think is good for us. Join through Facebook... CHLORAMINE FREE BURLINGTON!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Q&A With Jesse Jackson: "What has been your biggest disappointment?"

"Many have fought for and even lost their lives to end segregation, to win the right to vote. It disappoints me to now have to cajole people to register and to vote." - Jesse Jackson, in an interview with The Guardian.


What keeps you awake at night?

"Reflecting on the unfinished business of the civil rights journey."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Russia Today
A 77-year-old Greek man has committed suicide in central Athens by the nation’s parliament, shooting himself with a handgun in apparent financial desperation.

Eyewitness reports say that the man shouted “So I won’t leave debts for my children” before turning the gun on himself.

Also this is telling us something. And it can happen here, too. When will people wake up!

Prior to the downturn Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 for every 100,000 inhabitants. However, this figure has now almost doubled, with police reporting over 600 suicide cases in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Attempted suicides are also on the up.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On This Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech on 3 April 1968 at at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.

The next day he was assassinated.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Obama's Reward

Barack Obama's wallet was pilfered on Friday while he was glad handing his supporters at a campaign event at the UVM Gutterson Field House. There's a reward amounting to 1% of the take from the event to the person who turns in the culprit and returns the wallet.