Bill Mares

Commentator

Writer Bill Mares of Burlington is also a former teacher and state legislator. His most recent book is a collection of his VPR commentaries, titled "3:14 And Out."

Mares: Armed Stand-offs

May 1, 2014

Although Ukraine and Nevada are 6500 miles apart, intriguingly similar rebellions are underway in the two places. For starters, both are beset by armed gangs, aided and abetted by people from away, who want to weaken or destroy the central government.

So far, these groups have behaved like bullies everywhere: attack first, retreat to claim victim status later.

Almost 180 years ago, the French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville remarked upon the American social tension between the needs of the community and the wants of the individual.
 

Mares: Democracy

Mar 19, 2014

Winston Churchill famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." And 20 years ago, democracy was thought to be on the march around the globe. But a recent article in the Economist magazine asks "What's gone wrong with Democracy? And they consider several answers.

The financial crisis of 2008 and 9 - and resulting recession - caused many to lose faith in political systems that bailed out bankers with taxpayer money and ignored growing wealth inequality.

Mares: At The Oasis

Feb 25, 2014

During the past week, praise has been expressed by many for Stratty Lines, the long-time owner of the Oasis Diner in downtown Burlington, who died last week at the age of 84. It came from Madeleine Kunin, Pat Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Howard Dean, Bill Sorrell, Phil Hoff, and a host of lesser knowns and un-knowns.

Mares: War As Spectacle

Feb 11, 2014

Recently I've viewed two artistic panoramas, one of heroic triumph and one of unmitigated tragedy. The first is the 150-foot-long, 120-year-old Civil War painting by Berkshire born scenic painter Charles Andrus - currently on display at the Vermont Historical Center in Barre. The panorama shows 10 scenes from the Civil War, including bright depictions of the naval duel between ironclads Monitor and Merrimac, the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, and the surrender at Appomattox.

500 Years ago, an out-of-work Florentine diplomat wrote a short essay on politics dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici in hopes that he would unite the much fractured Italian state. The book was titled "The Prince" and the author was Niccolo Machiavelli.
 

Mares: Just Looking

Jan 7, 2014

The late John Updike was a literary polymath who wrote novels, short stories, poetry - even children’s books. Over the holidays, I read his book about painting. In JUST LOOKING, Updike, a self-described "well-informed dabbler" takes the reader through various museums - his favorite being Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Mares: New Ag Institute

Dec 6, 2013

Well, I may not have been a fly on the wall, but I was a figurative bee at the table, representing the Vermont Beekeepers Association. It was a round-table at Vermont Technical College to discuss their new Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems - built upon a $3.4 million federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department to improve job opportunities in rural areas.

Mares: Social Anesthesia

Nov 22, 2013

Perhaps the most famous quote of Karl Marx after “Workers of the world, unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains” is that religion, "is the opiate of the people."

Marx thought religion provided a kind of false happiness, a social stupor; that it dulled the spirit of rebellion and contributed to oppression. The sheer numbers of religious adherents worldwide today might seem to belie Marx’s observation – but in large swaths of the U.S. and Europe, religion has become passé.

Two current films deal with cargo ship hijackings by Somali pirates. One is a fictional tale made in Denmark and the other is that special oxymoron, a documentary made in Hollywood.
 
Both are based on the deadly business of holding commercial shipping crews for ransom.
 
Both contrast the vastness of the ocean with the claustrophobia of impromptu prison cells or rank hide-outs.
 
Both demonstrate grudging respect for the desperate, jobless teen-aged fishermen turned gangsters in the failed state of Somalia.

Here in Vermont we’re spoiled by our profuse and various landscapes with a mixture of open and cultivated land. It’s eye candy for the painter, hiker and driver alike.

Mares: Warrior Walk

Sep 18, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I joined 500 people in a Vermont Remembers memorial walk, hike, and run to benefit the Vermont National Guard’s Fallen Warrior Foundation. The guard had just built a new monument at Camp Johnson in Colchester, and I signed up to walk seven miles with 40 pounds on my back. It was just enough weight to remind me of how hard real soldiers have it. And that got me thinking about wars, both past and future, since the likelihood of attacking Syria seemed very real that day.

As serious beekeeping hobbyists, researchers and lecturers from Kenya, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, and Canada recently gathered in Pennsylvania to discuss the global crisis in beekeeping, the atmosphere was somber.

Death hung over the conference like a pall. The jargon was riddled with references to mortality: LD-50, sub-lethal doses, Dead-outs. People bemoaned bee deaths by pesticides and herbicides, death by pests and pathogens, death from a host of viruses.

Mares: Giving

Jul 2, 2013

Recently, a friend sent me an email listing of “the 50 worst charities in America .” Compiled by the Tampa Bay Times, the list showed the total amount raised by these organizations, then the amount given to the solicitors and administrators, and finally the direct cash aid to the target recipients.

At first I thought it was a joke when two old Chicago newspaper buddies of mine sent me the press release. It said that the Chicago Sun -Times where I had worked as a photographer would fire their entire photography staff and require the papers' reporters to provide their own photography and video for their stories.

“Where have all the jobs gone?” asked a recent New York Times headline. Writer, economist Jared Bernstein argued that for 30 years our economy has generated too few jobs for those who want them.

Recently - and quite by coincidence - I’ve become involved in three different projects specifically designed to teach some beekeepers how to teach other beekeepers.

It was a beautiful day for the 117th running of the iconic Boston Marathon. This greatest participatory running event in the world is the distance runner’s haj, the ultimate goal of an average runner’s career. A million spectators line the course on Patriots Day from Hopkinton to Boston. I watched patches of the race on TV until Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won their respective laurel wreaths. I re-lived my own four Bostons, each one distinctive, and each one ending in triumph of man over miles, 26 plus of them.

One member of my book club is Dr. Asim Zia, who teaches Public Policy at the University of Vermont. And he's just written a book about the politics of such predicted tumultuous change.

When I complained to him that I felt as if I were watching some slow-motion home horror movie in which those who don't believe in science refused to change their minds, he smiled. He said roughly 30% of us are deniers. About 30% are believers . And those numbers haven't changed much for a while, but there is movement in the middle.

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