Bill Schubart

Commentator

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.

Two predicates for civil society and peace in our world - neither of which we'll see in our lifetimes - are widespread, localized legal and judicial systems that support social and economic equity in a majority of countries, and equal enfranchisement of, and opportunity for, women.

NASA defines a black hole as… “a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes.”

Schubart: Obesity

Aug 26, 2015

Obesity is a principal driver of health care costs, our nation is obese, and at 350 pounds I, too, am obese. But my doctor tells me that at seventy years old, I’m otherwise in good health.

I’ve swum in ponds and pools. And I prefer ponds. I know ponds have yucky bottoms and slippery reptiles but the pools I’ve swum in are usually a witch’s brew of shock chemicals designed to blind the eyes, burn the skin, and destroy the biome that thrives in natural waterways.

I’m not one to spoil a party but I remain puzzled by Castleton’s decision to become a university. It’s a fine school and President Wolk deserves kudos for making it so, but times are changing and so must higher ed. Aspirational renaming won’t make this happen.

We look at a stranger and subconsciously register gender, race and perhaps class markers. These reflexive cognitive observations reveal nothing about the person yet often carry heavy judgmental baggage. In gender, it may be sexual; in race or class it may be the accrued social and economic biases of generations. If someone walking behind us is a white man wearing a suit, we may feel more secure than if he is an African-American wearing a hoody. Yet either is capable of ill will and harm.

Schubart: Monopolies

Jul 8, 2015

Antitrust prosecutors recently issued subpoenas to major airlines to explore possible collusion – but all they had to do was ask air travelers.

I don’t believe in economic development. There, I said it. Now, let me clarify. I believe the best business development strategy is being a great place to live, educate, and conduct business, as the Business Roundtable likes to say.

Schubart: Megabanks

Jun 3, 2015

The news was stunning. Barclays, Citibank, J.P. Morgan - Chase, RBS, Bank of America - Merrill Lynch, and UBS, all pled guilty to illegal currency and LIBOR rate manipulation and agreed to pay some $5.5B in aggregate fines – pocket-change for most and no jail terms for any executives – but, nonetheless, an unequivocal institutional admission of guilt and not the usual claim of “a few rogue bad guys.”

Senator John Campbell has been an outspoken opponent of establishing ethical oversight for the legislature until his recent epiphany inspired by the arrest of Senator Norm McAllister led to an abrupt about-face. He now stresses the need for such a panel in his words to “…provide a forum to clear your name when accused by a journalist or blogger.”

We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, perhaps too many laws. Much as we try, we can never translate moral obligations or prohibitions into legal ones. Moral codes differ with time, culture, and religion. Our Constitution enshrines the diversity of moral codes, but demands consistency in the enactment and enforcement of our laws.

Conservatives want to reduce government services that alleviate the effects of poverty, addiction, crime, illiteracy, and disease. Liberals want to increase them. But what if both were wrong and our goal instead were to manage towards an economy that creates resilience and enables self-sufficiency for all working Vermonters, eliminating their dependence on non-profit or government support?

The legislature has a four-speed gear box: inaction, study, nibble around the edges, and overdrive. The under-utilized overdrive gear brings forth bold action and initiates substantive change. The perennial re-appearance of all-too-familiar problems argues for a shift into high gear.

The well-being of citizens and their economy are interdependent and a functioning democracy balances and sustains the natural confluence of both. Otherwise, democracy may weaken and even fail.

Common sense names don’t work for politicians. What you or I would call “tax exemptions,” they call “tax expenditures.” Let me explain.

Schubart: Gun Sense

Feb 2, 2015

I got my first gun when I was eleven. I’d taken the NRA safety course at Camp Timanous in Maine and, as a reward, was given a Winchester .22 rifle by my parents. I was only allowed to use it for target practice, shooting rats at the dump, and small game hunting with Dad.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about empathy, whether rich people have it or not and if so, where does it come from. There are to two prevalent theories: that it’s inborn – genetically-based – or that, wealth eliminates any need to experience empathy from others since it can satisfy its own needs and thus it never takes root in them.

Schubart: Diet

Dec 31, 2014

Vermont needs to lose weight. Although our population is stable, our demography is changing. We’re older and becoming more urban. The local institutions that nurtured us when our dispersed villages were economically robust and filled with children and working people have grown too expensive.

While income for the wealthy living on dividends and interest has risen along with our cost of living, income from labor has remained fixed for several decades. We now have a state that working Vermonters can’t afford and well-heeled Vermonters don’t want to pay for.  

For some of us, Christmas still brings to mind Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales recorded for the BBC in 1942. But we’ve become so enthralled by the frenzy of credit-fed consumption, that the spirit of this classic Christmas story seems almost archaic, of another time.

I’ve often wondered why Thanksgiving means so much to us as a family. But we’ve always treasured this historic holiday about our founding as a nation, whereas for us Christmas is an uncomfortable combination of religion and consumerism.

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