Opinion: Well, maybe it can happen here

 

copyright the Chronicle March 23, 2016

by Chris Braithwaite

If you’ve been as gob smacked as I have by The Donald phenomenon, I have a recommendation: Find a copy of It Can’t Happen Here and give it a read.

It’s the most relevant commentary I’ve encountered on this crazy election year. Surprisingly, it is set in Vermont. More surprisingly, the novel will celebrate its eighty-first birthday in October.

Sinclair Lewis holed up in his second home in Barnard, Vermont, in May of 1935 and in four months wrote and revised his cautionary tale about the coming of fascism to America.

The book is set in 1936 when, in reality, the incumbent president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would claim the Democratic nomination and go on to win his second of four terms. But that’s not how things work out in Lewis’ version.

In both worlds, the country is still deep in the great Depression and FDR’s controversial new policies have yet to make much of a dent. There are other political models to choose from, and a substantial number of Americans see some promise in Germany and Italy, where Hitler and Mussolini have replaced the uncertainties of democracy with something more robust.

Thus, in the novel’s opening scene, retired General Herbert Y. Edgeways tells his audience on Ladies’ Night at the Fort Beulah Rotary Club that “I don’t altogether admire everything Germany and Italy have done, but you’ve got to hand it to ’em, they’ve been honest enough and realistic enough to say to the other nations, ‘Just tend to your own business, will you? We’ve got strength and will, and for whomever has those divine qualities it’s not only a right, it’s a duty, to use ’em!’”

Continue reading

Share

Editorial: Energy projects have a real and significant impact

copyright the Chronicle October 15, 2014

by Tena Starr


Vermont’s siting process for renewable energy projects so lacks planning that it may have the unintended effect of turning people off renewable energy, despite the fact that they support it in theory.

To date, there’s been this: The Nelson family has said that the noise from the Lowell wind towers has made them sick. In Sheffield, the Therriens say the noise from the wind turbines has made them sick and irreparably altered their lives.

Continue reading

Share

Editorial: Thanks, Jim

Photo by Joseph Gresser, taken at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, September 9, 2006.

Photo by Joseph Gresser, taken at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, September 9, 2006.

copyright the Chronicle August 20, 2014

Jim Jeffords died Tuesday at age 80 after a lifetime of public service. He was a Republican until the party moved away from his core Vermont values. In 2001 he became an Independent. His decision shifted the power in the U.S. Senate to Democrats when much of the Republican Party had veered off into extremism.

Vermonters who appreciated his decision put bumper stickers on their cars: “Thanks, Jim.”

Continue reading

Share

Editorial: It’s the Chronicle’s fortieth birthday — thanks everyone!

A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office.  The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office. The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

This week, March 28, is the Chronicle’s fortieth birthday.  Chris and Ellen Braithwaite produced that first edition on typewriters in an Albany farmhouse.  It had stories about Orleans Village winning a lawsuit, cuts to the Lake Region Union High School budget, an obituary, a review of a gardening book written by former West Glover resident Carey Scher — in other words, pretty much the same sort of things we’re still writing about all these years later.

That first paper was by no means fancy.  It was a mere eight pages, put out by relative newcomers to the area on antiquated equipment amidst small children, a mongrel dog, and, according to its first reporter, Colin Nickerson, monstrous spiders that the Braithwaites refused to kill on the grounds that they were natural insecticide.

But some people bought that very first Chronicle — and much to our surprise, some of them have continued to buy it every single week for the past 40 years.

Continue reading

Share

Editorial: Fight tar sands oil — for the right reasons

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

Next week at Town Meeting four Orleans County towns will vote on a resolution that basically says they don’t want tar sands oil to be shipped through the Portland Pipeline’s Northeast Kingdom oil lines.  They are Albany, Glover, Westmore, and Charleston.

Unfortunately, none of those towns are host to the pipeline and would not be directly affected by any such plan.

For years now, Vermont environmentalists have warned about the possibility of the flow of the lines being reversed and Canadian tar sands oil being shipped south and west through them from Alberta to Maine.  For two years, 350 Vermont has attempted to show opposition by persuading towns to adopt resolutions at Town Meeting.

Although their efforts were a bit more organized this year, they still seem to be inept at best.  One of the towns that would be most severely affected by any oil spill is Barton, yet that town will not be voting this year on a tar sands resolution.

Continue reading

Share

Opinion: A post-Valentine’s Day message on love and justice

copyright the Chronicle February 19, 2014

by Allen Gilbert

This year’s Valentine’s Day had a message that I hope will raise the day’s usual associations with flowers and chocolate to one of fairness and equality.  I never thought the holiday might be seen that way.  But it’s so obvious — the day is about couples and love.  And as a country, we’re finally developing a broad acceptance that means all couples.

The march to marriage equality has strong, vibrant roots in our state.  Twenty years ago, some courageous, committed Vermonters looked at the injustice of unequal marriage rights and decided that had to change.

Continue reading

Share

Editorial: Newport City Council missed the boat

The Newport City Council missed the boat last week when approached about the possibility of putting a tar sands resolution on the agenda for the annual City Meeting in March.  The council could have welcomed city residents who want to talk about an important local issue.  Instead they snubbed them.

The council told residents and an environmental organizer who wants to put a question about tar sands on the ballot that they might accept a petition from 5 percent of the city’s voters and put it on the ballot.  Or they might not.

Traditionally, the city council has turned down items that are not strictly city business, aldermen told the voters.

In this discussion, they told voters and a representative of the Sierra Club that they should not put anything “politicized” on the ballot.

Isn’t the whole idea of Town Meeting Day about local politics?  How strange for the city’s leading political figures to say they want to avoid politics at their city meeting.

Beyond that, just whose city is Newport anyway?  If 5 percent of city voters want to talk about something, what harm is that going to do?

The city council seems to be saying that tar sands is not a local issue.

City Manager John Ward called the Sierra Club, “just one more lobbying group coming here to tell us how to live.”

But tar sands is definitely a local issue.  The Portland Pipeline goes through Newport Center, which borders the city.  The pipeline goes through a number of towns further south where the rivers drain into Lake Memphremagog.

Does the council believe that an oil spill into rivers and streams leading to Lake Memphremagog would not harm the city’s economy, not to mention the environment?  If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be eating bass, walleye, trout or perch for years to come.

Newport City’s annual meeting is typically a brief, perfunctory affair where almost no one comes and almost nothing is discussed.  The city’s business is done by paper ballot.

Certainly this works well in terms of getting a good number of people to vote on municipal and school budgets and elections.  It’s more convenient for working people to choose their voting time.

But the lack of discussion is unfortunate, and here is an opportunity to allow city residents to have a debate about an issue that could affect the city drastically.  What is the problem with allowing that discussion and even a vote on a resolution?

There is such a thing as being too provincial.  The Northeast Kingdom sometimes has that reputation, and it’s time for that to change.

The city council could have taken a step to welcome discussion on an important regional topic, but instead they mostly closed the door on it.  Why?  Tradition?  Maybe it’s time for a new tradition. — B.M.D.

Share

Editorial: Adults should set better examples about bullying

Recently, a videotape of schoolchildren from Orleans Elementary fighting was posted on Facebook.  Upon investigation, the school’s principal concluded that it wasn’t so much a case of targeted bullying, as some had suspected, as it was an argument, mostly amongst middle school kids.

However, the incident served to highlight the role social media plays in the lives of young people these days — and how adults can exacerbate a situation.

It also illustrated the increasing complexity of a world where media so thoroughly infiltrates the lives of young people that it’s hard to draw the line between what happens in school and what happens outside of it.  An incident that occurs outside of school but is publicly posted and viewed by schoolchildren — what territory does that lie in?

The issue is so complex and troubling that it would take more than the space we have on this page to delve into every aspect of it.  But there are two things we’d particularly like to mention here.

One doesn’t have to look far these days to see plenty of uncivil behavior.  “Watch TV, listen to talk shows, talk radio…people seem to be so much less civil,” said Andre Messier, principal of Lake Region Union High School.

We agree with him.

The federal government is certainly no example of civil discourse or respectful behavior.  Political and ideological differences turn into personal, often nasty and intimidating attacks.  News programs don’t deliver information in a calm or neutral fashion; many of them are little more than shouting matches.  Scorn, condescension, and polarity are far more prevalent than empathy, compassion, and respect.

In the age of You Tube, iPhones, iPads, Facebook, and vines, nearly anyone can put anything up for public view — tasteful or not, worth watching or not.  Shock value seems to be a goal, the ultimate goal being attention, we suppose.

And we don’t need the National Security Agency’s help with violating our privacy.  We seem to be pretty good at doing it ourselves.

One would think that, in such an atmosphere — which children are heavily exposed to — adults would set out to temper matters.  Instead, as in the Orleans incident, the opposite can happen.

“Basically, all of the adults turned into bullies themselves in the comments,” said Kristin Atwood, an Orleans School Board member who saw the boy’s video after a Facebook friend passed it on to her.  “The sharing of the video was really kind of incendiary, and the adults’ comments were often promoting violence against the student who’s accused of bullying,” Ms. Atwood said.

If a questionable video involving schoolchildren appears on Facebook, it seems to us that the appropriate course would be to bring the matter to the attention of school officials and leave it there.  “Sharing” the video and posting incendiary comments (behaving, in other words, like a bully) does not strike us as an ideal method for dealing with an online video posted by a kid about kids.

Posting something online rather than talking to a teacher or administrator can inflame a situation, but it won’t remedy it.  Kids may not know better; adults should.

So grownups:  Either get off Facebook, or limit your own behavior to the best of what you would expect from children.   If you deplore uncivil discourse and disrespectful behavior in children, don’t do such a good job of showing them how it’s done. — T.S.

For the Chronicle‘s story on bullying, click here.

Share

Editorial: No retreat

President Obama was right to stand his ground while the government was shut down by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republican Party, which is controlled by its extreme right wing.

To give in would have been to turn the government over to minority rule by a group united in its hatred of government.  As Senator Bernie Sanders has said, to give up part of Obama Care to avoid the shutdown would only invite the House to use its absolute control over the budget to pick off the next program it decides to hate — Social Security, say, or Medicare.

Sensing, perhaps, that they have misjudged the public mood, the Republicans are now trying to choreograph a slow retreat.  Their leaders propose to fund the most popular federal services — the national parks were on the bargaining table Tuesday night — while leaving the programs they most dislike begging.

If the Democrats agree to play that game, the result will be the same.  The Republicans will fund just exactly as much government as they want, of exactly the sort they want.  That would seem pretty much like running the country.  In their effort to do that through the electoral process, the Republicans missed a couple of steps, like the Senate and the presidency.

The Democrats need to hang tough in this crisis.  The Republicans need to answer a question posed during a recent, unrelated argument by Barton Village Trustee David White:  “Why can’t we all put our big boy pants on?”

And as long as we’re excoriating people, we’re puzzled by the gag order that padlocked federal agencies have imposed on their idle employees.

Why shouldn’t we know about the services they are unable to provide?  Why shouldn’t we know how this has affected their lives and their families?

Fact is, they and the rest of us are being screwed by the devious, anti-democratic machinations of the right-wing rump of the Republican Party.  And everybody should have the right to say so. — C.B.

Share