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Rally at Noon at UVM at the Baily-Howe Library against layoffs and in support of those arrested las night.  From the email I got:

Last night, after ducking out the backdoor, President Fogel ordered that students engaged in a peaceful sit-down protest in the hallway of Waterman be arrested.  As of 11:30 last night, 34 students had been arrested and cited for trespassing.  Trespassing for sitting in a hallway in the administration of a public university? Trespassing for standing up against the downsizing of students’ eductions?

Join Students Stand Up and their many faculty and staff supporters today for a rally and speak-out, 12 noon, in front of Bailey-Howe Library.  Help us tell President Fogel he can’t trespass on our rights and downsize UVM education!

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Sorry to be slower than normal in getting this stuff up- I was actually home for just a brief moment and got something posted onto GMD (since that site has way more readership than me)…

Today a number of students at UVM locked-down in the Presidents Wing of the Waterman building, demanding fired staff be re-hired, budget cuts be taken off the table, and more layoffs be forgotten about.  A sit-in of over 100 students, staff and faculty members in the Waterman building was held simultaneously and continues this evening.

The latest word is that though the students were prepared to negotiate and even make concessions, UVM President Fogel walked out declaring that he’d agree to “none of it”.  Those locked-down were summarily arrested and the 100 plus folks still in the Waterman building have been told that if they don’t leave by 10:00 this evening they’ll be arrested too.

Students Stand Up are asking that anyone who can head over to the Waterman building at UVM for a 9:30 pm rally in support of those in the building.  If you do this sorta thing, there’s one of these: http://twitter.com/studentsStandUp

Update 10:15 pm- The Waterman building was ordered locked by Fogel with over 100 people still inside, cops stationed at every exit.  Over 200 people have turned out for the support rally outside.

Update Thursday morning- With over 200 people outside rallying, another 26 or so people inside Waterman over the evening and the occupation appears to have ended, for now.

Before I launch into this I should say that there are several things- political as well as social (and otherwise)- that make Vermont a simply wonderful, amazing, and truly unique place to live.   I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.   Aside from our mind-numbingly beautiful surroundings, Vermonters also enjoy an almost un-paralleled amount of access to our local government, not only at the municipal level but even up to the Statehouse (even our Federal reps are fairly easy to be directly in contact with and, when they’re in the state, can be found at the same restaurants and coffeeshops as everyone else, sans bodyguards and impossible to breach handlers).   More importantly than being able to get the ear of elected officials, actually becoming an elected official is probably more possible for the average person here than most any place I can think of in the country (and on par with the best and most accessible systems in the world)- frankly, getting elected just doesn’t take all too much money and the money it does require can be raised- or overcome- by anyone who’s vision or platform resonates with the people (folk hero Fred Tuttle and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders‘ accent to power are two easy examples).  The village of Moretown just elected an anarchist to the select board for Christsake.

More importantly, the spirit of rugged individualism that historically has shaped the libertarian mindset of Northern New England is matched quite well here with a deep- and ever-growing- social and collectivist approach that is beautifully summarized in our state modo “Freedom and Unity”.

But make no mistake, for all the good things Vermont has going for her, there are serious problems here.  Political problems.

Take, for instance, the recent efforts of the legislature to pass a law permitting same-sex couples to marry.

I’ll run past questions about how or why it’s the State’s business to control or regulate marriage (I am, after all, running past questions of how or why the State has any right to exist in the first place).  It is the nature of freedom itself to expand overtime- it always has and so presumably always will- and at this particular junction of space and time one of those newly defined rights of humanity is the freedom to marry who one wants- regardless of pre-postmodernist notions of gender identification and gender roles.  But somehow Vermont Governor Jim Douglas didn’t get the memo about freedom and equality and equal access and treatment being a good thing- and now he’s come out declaring that he will veto any same-sex marriage bills that arrive on his desk.

The real travesty here rests squarely with the Vermont press.

Plenty can (and has, even on this very blog) be said about Vermont’s Fourth Estate- from the good to the bad to the ugly.  At times visionary, at times probing, but more often complacent, short-sighted and lazy (not to mention thoroughly entrenched into the coat liner of the rich and powerful)- the Vermont press is the sole reason that we elect “socialist” Bernie Sanders year after year by sometimes huge margins while simultaneously doing the same for neo-conservative, endorses-Bush-and-McCain (and Palin!) Douglas.  The laundry list of bad moves and all-out class war (conducted on behalf of the rich and powerful) that Douglas has perpetrated over his thirty plus years in public office is far too vast to enumerate here.  Perhaps the best way to summarize the contradiction of Vermonter’s continual re-election of Douglas is to note that he successfully has cast himself in the public eye (in the minds of the voters) as a “populist”, “average Joe”, fighting for the little guy, counter-weight to greed and “politics” and the cold indifference of bureaucracy despite the fact that he has spent his entire adult life as a politician- the very face and practically definition of greed and “politics” and the living embodiment of the cold indifferent bureaucracy.

Yet Douglas continues to be re-elected, primarily because the Vermont press allows him to define the debate and set the parameters of the conversation.  In a State known far and wide as the “most liberal” in the country (a distinction which may be slightly disingenuous though if one spends even the slightest amount of time here you’ll understand where it comes from), where a socialist gets elected to the U.S. Senate, where there’s a third major Party (to the left of the Democrats), where the State Senate and House are solidly in the hands of Democrats and where every statewide office (except the Governor and Lt Gov) are held by Dems- a Bush (policy)-supporting, cut social-programs-and-give-tax-cuts-to-the-rich Republican like Douglas should be driven out of town as easily as a vampire from a garlic festival.  Douglas exemplifies everything that Vermonters don’t like about politicians, and yet he gets elected- easily- by selling himself as somehow “on our side” against, well, people who actually think and act the way he does in office.

On other (liberal and left) blogs I’ve seen a lot of reactions to Douglas’ declaration that he’ll veto the same-sex marriage act with declarations of “now the people will see who he really is” and speculation that he’ll somehow “now be defeatable” in the next election.  But here’s the reality: for at least 98% of the people who feel strongly about this issue, they weren’t voting Douglas anyway.  For the vast majority of people who either passively support or are indifferent to this law, it’ll mean nothing come election time (and the vocal minority strongly opposed to same-sex marriage will continue to vote for him no matter what- including if he allowed the bill to pass without signing it).  Most importantly, the press will not do their job and will not expose Douglas as standing in the way of what’s morally, ethically, socially, politically, or economically right (on this issue or any other).

For everything great about Vermont, there are still serious problems to be addressed.  They will not be- and in fact will just continue to get worse- with someone like Douglas leading the way.  And Douglas will be governor for as long as the press allows him to be; which unfortunately looks like it may be a long, long time.

A few things I’ll bring to your attention:

-First off, for those of you not from here, you may not be aware that Vermont is poised to possibly become the first State in the U.S. to recognize same-sex marriage without it coming from a court-order.  The House and the Senate are both heavily controlled by Democrats, who face a Republican governor who is absolutely opposed to the idea; what remains to be seen is whether the governor will veto the legislation once it makes it to his desk (which it almost certainly will) or if he’ll allow it to become law without signing it (something that can happen here- he needs to actively veto legislation passed by the legislature in order to stop  a bill from passing).  The liberal Green Mountain Daily has a bunch of posts of late if you want to read more.

-Speaking of GMD, frequent contributor Rama Schneider has a great little post over there concerning both the health consequences of high fructose corn syrup and the related advertising of such sugary, processed foods to children: “We can spend our hard earned money consuming products that will make us ill thus making it reasonable for us to spend money on a life’s worth of doctor/hospital visits … and then we can spend money on paying for the medicine developed to save us from the ill effects of the product we purchased that sent us to the medical care system for a lifetime of treatment.  Or … we can save our money and purchase wholesome foods…”  The post includes a couple of great links to the science of HFCS’s ill-effects.

-Speaking of Vermont’s Republican governor Jim Douglas: if you’re unfamiliar with the actualities on the ground in the absolutely bucolic Green Mountain State you might be surprised to learn the State generally considered the “most liberal” in the country has a GOP governor- we do, after all, have the first and only “socialist” (for readers outside of the U.S. that translates into “social democrat”) Senator, Bernie Sanders (in no way a perfect man- nor a perfect politician, if such a thing could exist; but still better than most any others).  If you’re truly a political junky you may also be aware that since taking office president Obama has taken quite a liking (politically for sure- I can’t speak to what he may think of Douglas personally) to the man that Vermont’s left knows as “governor Doesless”.  Lets be frank here: Obama’s “reaching out” to Douglas (the man has been in Washington more in the past two months than probably his entire previous six years as governor and was just tapped to “lead” Obama’s “future of health care” public forum in Vermont) is the most blatant and despicable kind of politicking.  Obama clearly wants to be seen and known as a bridge-builder and “bi-partisan” and sees a friendly relationship with a Republican governor (from liberal little Vermont no less) as a great way of “reaching out” across the aisle.  If I were Obama’s mama I’d smack him on the back side for it.  Douglas was an enthusiastic supporter of George Bush and Jim McCain (and Sarah Palin) and believes wholeheartedly in the most regressive and illogical political and economic ideals.  When the VT Legislature was working to enact universal health care, they knew it would be knifed by the governor so they produced the extremely flawed compromise known as Catamount Health Care, a system that has done very, very little to solve the health care crisis here but is nonetheless touted by many as some kind of great piece of legislation- and Douglas is by and large given the credit for it!  Having him “lead” this federal health care community forum is like having the fox lead a convention of chickens looking to protect themselves from, well, from murderous foxes.

-On the 50th anniversary of the Chinese take-over of Tibet HH The Dali Lama has come out with somewhat uncharacteristically harsh words for the Chinese government.  Among his comments to the BBC, he noted that the people of Tibet have experienced “hell on earth” at the hands of the Chinese.  Not that I’m inclined to give credence to what the Chinese government has to say about it all, but quite interestingly they counter by noting that their actions 50 years ago (and still today) were a matter of “liberating” Tibet from feudalism; China celebrates March 28 (the anniversary of the day in 1959 when they dissolved the Tibetan government) as “Serf’s Emancipation Day”.  Long-time readers may remember almost a year ago I was giving ample (and consciously inflammatory) coverage of the violent uprisings that took place throughout the region.  In the course of that coverage, one reader here commented about the abusive, patriarchal, repressive authoritarian systems of Buddhism, including Tibetan Buddhism.  I responded that I’d write something more in-depth about my opinions of the matter, and of any connections between Buddhism and revolutionary, liberation politics.  I hope by the end of this week to finally get that written and posted for you. 

This is a re-posting of one of my most popular posts to date, from Valentine’s Day last year; enjoy!

In all likelihood, a national poll would identify Osama Bin Laden as the most wanted criminal alive today.  A similar global poll just might even identify President George W. Bush as the holder of such a title.  Even still, if asked to identify the most devious criminal mind known to man, the more “reality-challenged” among us may give Lex Luthor the distinction.  But here in Vermont’s Capitol City, evil knows a different name: the Valentine’s Day Bandit.  While many prefer to think of this monster as a miraculous, wonderful gift of kindness and caring benevolence bestowed upon the people of Montpelier by an anonymous angel, I think it’s high time to shine some daylight onto the truly nefarious and shadowy reality of the person who asks to be known as the “Valentine’s Day Phantom”.

For those who don’t know, since the early 1990’s a person (or group of people) has mysteriously rushed through Vermont’s Capitol City in the pre-dawn hours of February 14th, taping 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of white paper with a singular, large red heart onto buildings, shop windows, street signs, homes, and the like.  The result is that, come Valentine’s Day morning, hundreds, if not thousands of these paper images over-take the visual landscape of Montpelier in what is surely as near to a miraculous sight as many of us will ever experience.

But it’s come time we stop reveling in this mystery, and get about to the truth of the matter: the self-described Valentine’s Day Phantom is without argument a social deviant.  While in and of themselves, the facts may be small and capable of being ignored, taken together, the picture we can paint of the Bandit/Phantom is not that of an earthly angel, but instead of no less than the Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Times:

Read the rest of this entry »

The two things that bother me most about the title of this post are that first,I don’t see the ignorance of self-identified Republicans to be entirely their fault- not for certain segments of their rank anyway; second, there is a certain place where insanity meets genius and the results are great ideas, music, and art (think Nietzsche, Keith Moon, and Hunter S. Thompson for instance) that expand the world for all and for the better- this is not the manner of insanity I wish to insinuate keeps company with the Democrats.  Nonetheless, this is the first and best title for this post that I came up with and now it’s set in stone.

The first notion isn’t one I haven’t spoken to before but is merely a thought that came up in relation to the one before it (that Democrats are insane).  Democrats are guilty by and large of repeating the same action (being a Democrat) over and over but expecting different results.  That, as the popular parlance goes, is the definition of insane.  Republicans- the working class, blue collar, of meager means persuasion, are quite often people that I relate and find solace with; often, they work hard, battle personal and emotional stresses without the proper tools or necessary support, they believe in real freedom and liberty and don’t think it right for anyone, let alone the State, to mettle in their personal affairs (including on the job).  They are as “regular people” as regular people come and I’d say to be somehow against or derogatory of people, in the general sense, is to be anti-human.  Let me reply to the protests pro-actively: I know this is not the case for all or perhaps even most Republicans; I know some people are downright mean-spirited, racist, homophobic, sexist; I know there’s plenty of millions with a penchant for screwing the little guy and interpreting the Bible in the most bizarre and grotesque ways.  That’s not really who I’m referring to here, though in truth I’d argue that he same sort of affliction is besieging both.  I’m thinking of my family members, of the older folks who I find in the local bar after work hours, of the guy who comes to fix my phone or install my cable- I’m thinking of Steve, Ken and Judy, Rick and Lisa, and Scotty down at Charlie-O’s.  People who may or may not be religious, but whose faith is their work, who may not like you, your lifestyle, or your beliefs but nonetheless don’t care too much so long as you’re leaving them alone.  My own mom or grandpa, who may hide their politic behind ugly thoughts but who likewise see the government and all bureaucracy as inherently intrusive, dumb, and infuriating.

To all of these people I am referring, and my simple observation is that they chose to consider- or at least favor- themselves as Republicans because their ignorance (and the capitalist system itself) teaches them that the Republican Party speaks for their beliefs and values.  The GOP appeals to the lower economic classes as the Party which holds the values of individual liberty and personal freedom and a rejection of intrusion and bureaucracy and mindless abdication.  Some through their church (I am not referring to fundamentalism but just religion in it’s common form) believe in the “rights” of a fetus and are equally brainwashed- led to a certain form of ignorance- that this is the thing that matters and that for it they should vote a certain way.  Some live in a world where guns are fetishized to the degree that this is their thing.  Regardless, all these groups are educated in a neglectful manner which leads them to identifying as Republicans.  Thus my hyperbolic conclusion: Republicans are ignorant.

Democrats, on the other hand, are even more curious to me.  A good number of them- who I am not referring to at the moment- are more like Republicans (either in their social or economic beliefs).  Of those that reject the GOP for economic or political rather than social reasons find themselves often fitting into my complaint above.  But if I may speak specifically to the liberal, the so-called progressive element of the Democratic Party: you are merely insane, in a clinical, pathological sort of way, for your insistence on continuing to consider yourself a Democrat.  You are shocked that the electoral system is a ponzi scheme though it always has been and always will be under not only capitalism, but every previous form of government in the history of mankind; you are shocked to see your party’s leadership “move” and pander towards the political right even though that is what it always does and will predictably continue to do; and you cynically concede the Party’s leadership will not act in favor of justice because of political expediency and “insider” games even though you think to pursue justice is the most noble of courses.

This “progressive”, socially-oriented wing of the Democratic Party insists on supporting and identifying as Democrat despite the fact that the only reason to do so is that they lack the required ignorance of those who identify as Republicans.  They know, they have seen time and time again, that the Democratic Party does not act in accord with their values and wishes, but they “support” it nonetheless, thinking that to do so will somehow- perhaps eventually- change  what the Democratic Party is and has always been.  They continue to vote and argue for and throw money at Democratic Party candidates yet they  detest the vast majority of what the Democrats do (or even more so, what they don’t do).  Thus my second hyperbolic conclusion: the Democrats are literally insane.  It’s as if I put a piece of bread in the coffee maker in hopes of toasting it: sure, in a certain sense the bread is warmer than before, (and sure, it’s better than the Republican’s choice of flushing the bread down the toilet, but seriously): the fucking bread still isn’t toasted.  

Still though, it’s easy enough to deconstruct; it takes a bit of gumption to draw-up blueprints let alone begin re-building.  Rightly, Wilber would describe that the Republicans offer us a healthy version of a lower (ie, more basic but less meaningful, more breadth but less depth) consciousness while the Democrats offer us an un-healthy version of a higher (deeper, narrower) consciousness.  Both don’t serve well.  In fact, neither serves but rather rules and dictates, and perhaps that gets further at the problem to be overcome here; the political life would be better off as one that teaches the ignorant while demonstrating the errors of the insane.  In the meantime, we have no meaningful jobs, affordable health care, quality education, or assurances for the elderly and disabled.  No rights for homosexuals, no equality in practice, and no freedom in the streets.  And to all of this, both sides continue to support their team.

A bunch of things out there I feel like throwing out at you, my friends.  So lets get right to it, starting off with the video clip that you must’ve seen (cause it’s already everywhere) but deserves to be put here too, just cause it’s, well, it speaks for itself:

If you’ve somehow missed seeing this before, it happened at a press conference while Bush was in Baghdad over the weekend.  You may be aware that in Iraqi culture, showing the bottom of one’s shoe to someone is considered highly insulting; well, I won’t even speculate where they put throwing one’s shoes at someone.  And of course, I’m sure security getting into that press conference- or anywhere near Bush- was incredibly tight, but still, I can’t help but notice the lackadaisical nature of the secret services’ response here- I mean, the guy was able to get both shoes off and chuck them across the room before being tackled by security.  He’s said to still be in custody, and word is that a few thousand people took to the streets of Baghdad yesterday to demand his release.

The social unrest in Greece continues still, and solidarity actions around the world have as well.  Olympia, WA, St Petersburg, Russia, Macedonia have all added their cities to the list of violent clashes with police and Greek consulate attacks.  Boston and other Northeastern U.S. cities plan on taking action tomorrow.

A computer and telecom equipment factory in Southeastern Shanghai, China, is being guarded closely by police trying to keep 1,000 factory worker’s from entering the building as they launch their own sit-in protest.  The worker’s haven’t been fully paid in 6 months, and offer just one more sign of the growing global working class uprising that- as I’ve noted was all but certain- is resulting from the capitalist meltdown in financial markets.

Closer to home, VermontNewsGuy has the “dirt” on the latest round of Republican and Democrat bickering.  While VNG may be a bit hot-headed about the degree of the “controversy”, he’s also essentially right: Tax Commissioner Tom Pelham recently reported (as he’s required by law to do) on the State’s estimated income from the statewide educational property tax and the estimated money that school’s statewide are expected to spend in the coming year.  Well, the report is that there’s an estimated $20.5 million surplus  in the education fund.  By law (Title 32, Chapter 135, Section 5402b) such a surplus directs the Tax Commissioner to recommend a reduction in the statewide property tax rate; well, he didn’t.  For a bit of context, remember that Pelham is an appointee of the Governor and in a letter accompanying his report to the legislature, Pelham explains “Given the extraordinary fiscal choices before us, a recommendation from me regarding 2010 tax rates may be extraneous or even harmful to the flexibility you and the Governor need to craft an overall fiscal course for the state.”  Later in an interview he said “it’s worth leaving the issue of the tax rate ambiguous because there is no certainty in these tumultuous fiscal waters.”  VNG hits this one one the nose:

…put this in context. Pelham is the appointee and ally of Gov. Jim Douglas, especially when it comes to cutting property taxes. And here he is refusing to recommend a cut in property taxes even where the law requires him to recommend a cut in property taxes.

Granted it’s only a recommendation. Pelham has no power to set the tax rate. But just imagine what Republicans would say if a Democrat passed up the chance to propose lower property taxes.

No, don’t bother. No need to imagine. Go back almost four years, to February, 2005. Then as now the Education Fund was projected to be in surplus for the coming year. Douglas wanted to cut the tax rate by more than enough to bring it into balance. The Democrats said no, inspiring then Republican State Chairman Jim Barnett to issue a statement accusing the Democrats of trying to “increase property taxes.”

So are Democrats now taking similar advantage of this inconsistency on the part of the Douglas Administration?

Apparently not.

“Because these are such difficult financial times, (Pelham) doesn’t want to make promises to the schools that he may not be able to keep,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ann E. Cummings of Montpelier. Agreeing with Pelham that this is a “different year,” she declined to take political advantage of Pelham’s letter.

“We’re going to make an effort to do this in a bipartisan manner, which we can’t do if we start out throwing partisan darts at the governor,” she said.

We have here three possibilities: (1) Vermont Democrats (at least as compared to Vermont Republicans) are too responsible about governing to take cheap shots; (2) Vermont Democrats (at least as compared to Vermont Republicans) are wimps with no taste for combat; (3) Both.

Just because the Democrats aren’t complaining doesn’t mean nobody is. In a joint statement, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the School Boards Association called on Pelham to propose a tax rate based on the new numbers, a move they say could save taxpayers $18 million next year.

Without such a recommendation, said John Nelson of the School Boards Association, local school districts won’t be able to present their proposed tax rates to voters at least 30 days before town meeting day, as the law requires.

So the Douglas Administration gets by with effectively raising property taxes (by not taking the course of action outlined by the law- reducing the property tax rate to reflect actual school spending) while simultaneously loading-up with ammo to shoot at the education system for not making the timely cost-cutting measures that everyone is demanding in tight budgetary times.  And the Vermont “left”?  No, make that the Vermont Democratic Party (don’t ever let me get away with calling the Vermont Dems the “Vermont left”)- they either too feeble or too disorganized (or both) to do what they let the political right do almost daily, which is to engage in a populist battle over how and where money is spent versus how and where it’s raised (particularly, taxes).  I’m not saying one way or the other that the tax rate should be lowered, or if the money should be used for other budgetary shortfalls; what I am saying though is that Douglas uses every opportunity (and in fact, when there is no opportunity he just creates one) to frame the conversation and place his actions and priorities in the context of doing the best he can to make living more affordable for the average Vermonter while placing his political opposition squarely as representing monied, “specialized” interests.  The truth of the matter may be that both the R’s and the D’s represent that, but it’s the GOP- and Douglas particularly- who represent it the most.  While Douglas will often talk about acting in a bi-partisan manner (while at the same time trash-talking the opposition), he never actually acts in a manner to do so.  But the Democrats, god bless their little mis-guided hearts, simply refuse to take political advantage of the same situations and try to cooperate with this fucker.  Time and again.

The right wing isn’t going to be neutralized by cooperating with them.  While it’s important and admirable to cooperate to get things accomplished, it would best be done by first entirely wiping out the falsehood of the right’s agenda and rhetoric- once their B.S. platform is exposed for what it is and the right’s power is left to the wingnut fringes, cooperate all you want.  In the meantime, WTF? take some action to throw the right’s maddening crap to the dustbin of history.

In the world of housekeeping here at IP, I’ve added a link to the Prog Blog, which is a blog for and from the Progressive Party.  Honestly, I’d seen it mentioned in conversations at other blogs, but had never gone over.  If I’m going to link the the Dem-centric GMD, the Prog Blog deserves one too.  And hey, surprise surprise, the posts over there aren’t bad at all.  A lot more focus on the issues, rather than the names and organization of the Party, which is refreshing.  The always logical and thorough Doug Hoffer helps that to happen.

Finally, no one can claim they saw it coming before it happened: the 9-5, tied for first place Miami Dolphins, who haven’t allowed a touchdown in three games and will enter the playoffs as AFC East champs after beating the Jets in two weeks. 

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